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Classical Indic Warfare I: Dhanur Veda

It is often asked whether there was a Traditional Dharmic Military Science. After all, in an era where “Might makes Right” and “Victory is the only Morality”, how can a society, any society, hope to survive without its own Tradition of Warfare? Although modern India has come to be associated with the concept of Ahimsa, it must also be remembered that Bharat is also the society of Dharma eva hatho hanthi.

Those who wish to elevate Dharmo rakshati rakshitaha from a mere maxim to an actual eternal truth must first begin by properly understanding the first installment in our new Series on Classical Indic Warfare: Dhanur Veda.

Introduction

Vaasishtaaya namoh namaha

Salutations to Maharishi Vasishta, who expounded the Dhanur Veda to King Kausika (who became Vishvamitra).

Dhanur Veda is an ancient tradition, considered by some to be one of the 18 branches of knowledge. “According to Visnudharmottara, god Satakratu (Indra) represents Dhanurveda or the knowledge of warfare.” [2] Other divinities associated with it include Lord Skanda (the God of War), and his father (Sadashiva) who himself is credited with the Siva-Dhanur-Veda.

Although Dhanurveda is often referred to merely as Science of Archery or “Martial Arts”, it is in fact the Ancient Vedic Military Science. It is the foundation of the Indic Way of War. As for why the name emphasises the Dhanush, the explanation is as follows: Just as Soopa Sastra refers to Cuisine, just as Arthasastra refers to Statecraft, so too does Dhanur Veda refer to Military Science.

Long time readers would have become familiar with the preceding Upavedas we discussed. Each Upaveda is attached to one of the Chatur Vedas.

Gandharva Veda — Saama Veda

Sthaapatya Veda — Atharva Veda

Dhanur Veda — Yajur Veda

Ayur Veda — Rig Veda

As such, just as Gandharva Veda is attached to the Saama, just as Sthaapatya Veda is attached to the Atharvana, the Dhanur Veda is attached to the Yajur Veda.

That is why the realm of Dhanur Veda is not merely for rote regurgitators, but for those with an understanding of both ancient and modern military arts. In fact, the first guru-sishya parampara of Dhanur Veda begins with Lord Brahma teaching King Prithu. There are of course other lineages. The Siva Dhanur Veda propounds the teachings of Tripurantaka (Lord Shiva) who instructed Parashurama. And finally, the Vasishta Dhanurveda Samhita encompasses the discourse on Dhanur Veda delivered by Maharishi Vasishta to Vishwamitra. Some even list as many as 6 or 7 Traditions.

Despite the fumblings of neophytes, also-rans, and ahankari-shikhandis, a proper restatement of the Vedic Way of War has yet to be comprehensively discussed. To date, there have either been modern Subject-Matter-Experts with outstanding professional expertise, but minimal traditional awareness, or traditionalist (and pseudo-traditionalist) scholars who cite theory without practical modern understanding. But to face the Exigencies of the Politico-Strategic, both are required. We must be rooted in the past but pragmatically face the present as it is, not as we wish it to be.

As such, to fight the battle that faces us, rather than merely the one we want, one must properly understand that we face not a Clash of Civilizations, but a Clash for Civilization. Because when you realise the enemy you face is amongst you, and inherently uncivilised, you understand the traditional rules of Achara Yuddha do not apply. It is why Dhanur Veda stands astride both the realms of Raja Dharma and Raja Niti. While statecraft encompasses both, Dharmic Epistemology necessitates the classification of Sainyaara-vidya under Niti, as the principles of war are neither moral nor immoral, but amoral.

Dharma→Rajadharma→Rajaniti→Kootaniti→Dhanurveda→Kanikaniti

It is why in the Kali Yuga, Koota Niti rather than Dhanur Veda is the starting point, because strategy determines whether or not you go to war, rather than war being the starting point of considering strategy. The present time provides a set of sophisticated forms of warfare, which may or may not have been foreseen by our forbears and seers, but nevertheless are practiced today (Lawfare, Economic Warfare, Cultural Warfare, etc.). In fact, the modern and post-modern eras have become so complex, that one must consider strategy even before politics. The latter becomes an extension of the former, rather than the standard other way around.

If the Politico-Strategic involves understanding and successfully managing the competitive landscape, Dhanur Veda involves the ability to impose one’s decision upon the adversary.

Purpose

The Purpose of Dhanur Veda was stated by Maharishi Vasishta himself. Rather than for seeking glory or demonstrating mere skill, the purpose of archery (Dhanurvidya) and warfare (Dhanur Veda) was to protect one’s subjects, and rescue the weak from the strong, and preserve Dharma and the virtuous persons who practice it.

Dushtadasyuchoradibhya saadhu-samrakshanam dhammethah |

Praja-paalanam Dhanurvedasya Prayojanam || sl.5

The purposes of learning [Dhanurveda] are to protect the virtuous people from the evil persons, robbers and thieves and also to protect and defend the subjects. [2,4]

As such, a teacher of Dhanurveda has the responsibility to train students well, and also to reject greedy, foolish, ungrateful, and evil students so that they cannot abuse this knowledge to harm others.

Knowledge, for both student and teacher, comes with responsibility.

Theoretical Foundations

For the defence of a country, there are abundant references in Vedas, to maintain a regular armed force. It is also enjoined therein that the immediate control of this defence force should be under the command of a chief.  [1,14]

These of course are references to the state of the Military art of the time. Contrary to popular opinion, the theoretical study of Warfare is ancient and widespread in Indic Civilization.

As with all things Dharmic, the foundational aspects of the Indic Military Tradition are found in the Chaturveda. Due to the numerous references to the subject in that samhita, Maharishi Vasistha considers Dhanurveda to also be a sub-branch of Atharva Veda.

Committees (samiti/sabha/sura) consisting of competent experts were to be appointed by the King on defence policy and related matters (AV. 15.8.9, 4.30.2). Such bodies had an advisory role, with the King naturally serving as the overall Chief of the Defence Forces (RV.10.125) Nevertheless, separate Commanders-in-Chief (senadhipatis) were frequently appointed (though the risk of coups remained—as evidenced by Pushyamitra Sunga‘s rise to power).

The election and consecration of the commander on the field of battle as evidenced in the epic at once reminds one of the Vedic king’s coronation. [7, 2]

While rooted in the Yajur Veda, there are a large number of sources (extant and otherwise) for understanding the application of Dhanur Veda.

Dhanurveda, the standard work on Vedic military science being lost, dissertations on the Mahabharata, the Agni Purana, Akasa Bhairava Tantra, Kautalya Arthasastra, Manusmrti, Matsya Purana…Manasollasa, Yukti Kalpa Taru, Visnudharmottara Purana, Viramitrodaya, Samrangana Sutradhara, Sukraniti, and other small works on Dhanurveda like Ausanas Dhanurveda, Vasishta Dhanurveda, Sadasiva Dhanurveda and Niti Prakasika are the only source of information on the subject left to us.” [1,13]

Many of course will argue that some of these texts, such as the Siva Dhanurveda, focus almost exclusively on literal Dhanur vidya (archery). That is true, but even the Vasistha Dhanurveda Samhita is more robust and covers elements of battle strategy and military operations as well. There are also other Dhanurvedas that are lesser known: Vishvamitra Dhanurveda, Jamadagni Dhanurveda, Vaisampayana Dhanurveda, as well as the Veerachintamani of Sarangadhara. [1,15] Furthermore, the RamayanaMahabharata, and Arthasastra all cover the details of the art of Dharmic War, down to the granular level of logistics and military education of princes.

The Hindu did not permit even the military art to remain unexamined. It is very certain that the Hindu kings led their own armies to the combat, and that they were prepared for this important employment by a military education; nor is it less certain that many of these monarchs were distinguished for the highest valour and military skill. [1,1]

The Nitiprakaasika of Vaisampayana tells us that Lord Brahma was the originator of Dhanur Veda and taught King Prthu, son of Vena, via 1,00,000 slokas. This was reduced to 50,000 by Rudra, 12,000 by Indra and 3,000 by Pracetasa & Brihaspathi. Sukra reduced it to 1,000, Bharadvaja to 700, Gaishira to 500 and Maharishi Veda Vyasa to 300.  Vaisampayana himself provides us with this work in 8 chapters. [1]

Dhanurveda is generally divided into 4 sections: 1. Deeksha (Initiation), 2. Sangraha (Procurement), Siddhaprayoga (Training), Prayogavidhi (Operations).

Modern Hindus are more obsessed with 1 and 4, when they need to pay more attention to 2 and 3. Some leaders are born—it is true—but most are made. They are made through education and tested through practice. It is why all-theory and no practice pseudo-trads need to exit the kshetra where they do not belong.

Pareekshaa anyaa yogyataa anyaa

Exam is one thing competence is another

This is emphasised by Acharya Chanakya himself, who mentioned training in the military arts to extend to study of the Itihaasas. It is not for nothing that History is dubbed “the school of princes”.

Interestingly, talented generals were often highly trained in the fine arts. Maharana Kumbha crushed the neighbouring Sultanates and turned Mewar into a powerhouse. He was also a commentator on Music & Literature.  As for Andhra, the Nrtta Ratnavali (a work on dance) of Jaya Senapati ends every chapter colophon as follows:

Srimanmaharajadhiraja-ganapatideva-gajasaadhanika

Jayasenapati- viracitaayaam nrttaratnaavalyaam

Nrtta Ratnavali authored by Jayasenaapti, the chief of the elephant forces of Ganapatideva, the superior king of kings. [147]

A great general in his own right, Ganapati Deva was the father of the warrior Queen Rudrama Devi.

Thus the Gaja-sadhanika (or Elephant Corps commander) also had a well-rounded education. While these are some of the theoretical foundations, one must also familiarise oneself with the terminology and principles of Dhanurveda.

Teminology

  • Dhanurveda — Military Science
  • Samgraama/Vigraha — War
  • Yuddha — Battle
  • Sangraha — Procurement
  • Siddhaprayoga —Training
  • Prayogavidhi — Operations
  • Upasad — Siege
  • Samkrama — Bridge
  • Kavacha — Armour
  • Varma — Chain mail
  • Sirastraana/Sipra — Helmet
  • Kantatraana — Throat protector
  • Phalaka — Shield (metal or wood)/Charma (leather or hide shield)
  • Hastaghna — Armguard (especially for archers)
  • Dundubhi — War drum
  • Suhstra — Weapon
  • Dhanusha — Bow
  • Vaana — Arrow
  • Gadha — Mace
  • Vavri — Sheath/ Vaala — Belt
  • Khadga — Sword (falchion)
  • Khanda — Sword (long sword)
  • Asi — Blade/Knife
  • Chakra — Discus
  • Velam — Spear
  • Tomara — Lance
  • Parashu— Axe
  • Trishula — Trident
  • Yantra — War Engine (i.e. Catapult)
  • Durgam — Fortress
  • Skandhavaara/Shivira — Camp
  • Chakravartin — He who turns the Wheel of Dharma (Paramount Sovereign)
  • Raja — King
  • Rajanya — Royal Family
  • Kshatriya — Aristocrat
  • Veera — Warrior
  • Senadipathi — Commander in Chief
  • Senapathi/Senani — General
  • Nayaka — Commander
  • Upanayaka — Lieutenant
  • Sainik/Patti — Foot Soldier
  • Ashvasaada — Cavalryman
  • Spashah — Spy
  • Duta — Messenger
  • Gaja — Elephant
  • Ratha — Chariot
  • Naava — Boat
  • Nalikaa — Gun
  • Agnichoorna — Gunpowder
  • Nisthaanam — Base
  • Sena — Army
  • Nau Sena/Varuna Sena — Navy
  • Vayu Sena — Air Force
  • Kaksha — Flanks
  • Paksha — Wings (also camp)
  • Koti — Vanguard
  • Uras — Chest (front centre)
  • Madhya — Centre (behind the chest)
  • Prstha — Rearguard
  • Praligraha — Reserves
  • Vyuha — Formation
Principles

samudraram

  1. Initiation
  2. Procurement
  3. Training
  4. Operations
    1. Strategic Planning
      1. Personnel
      2. Logistics
    2. Military Operations
      1. Encampment
      2. Battles
        1. Organisation
        2. Formations
      3. Sieges

Study of specifically Dhanur Vidya is more appropriate for another time. It is important to understand its place and practice in the wider context of War (Samgraam)

Dharma of Samgraama

Dharmachakra

The Dharma of Samgraama, or Dharma of War, is one that is complex and one that has grown increasingly subtle over time. While the purpose of war has already been discussed, how should a just war be conducted?

The Epic code of ethics helped to soften the edge of conflict…The civilian population was allowed to pursue its labours umolested, temples and places of public worship were left undefiled. That these rules were operative in the fourth century B.C., is fully supported by the testimony of Megasthenes. It is doubtful if any other ancient civilization set such humane ideals of war. [7, 167]

Achara Yuddha

Hindu warfare was honoured for its code of Ethics, so much so that foreign commentators often asked whether it was more of a tournament for warriors.

Murcchitham naiva vikalam nashastram naanyayodhinam |

Palaayamaanam saranam gathanchaiva na himsayeth || sl.41

One should not kill the enemy who is lying unconscious, who is crippled, devoid of weapon or is stricken with fear and also who has come for shelter. [2, 64]

With such rules, it is easy to see why Rajputs fell for Turk deceptions time and again. But the first responsibility of a King is not to be a chivalrous/magnanimous figure, but to protect his subjects.

But contrary to naysayers, however, there was a practical aspect to it as well.Ethical warfare is suited for ethical enemies. Those who practice koota-yuddha must be opposed by similar conduct. Kautilya himself was merely reasserting what Krishna had already taught. When the enemy is breaking all the rules, you cannot fight with one hand tied behind your back. That is the difference between a Raja and Rajaputra.

Therefore, Achara yuddha was meant to be followed with other Indic Kings who observed the rules of Civilised Warfare. Above all, civilians were to be respected, and women and children to be protected.

Suptam prasuptamunmattam hyakaccham suhstra-varjitham |

baalam striyam deenavaakyam dhaavantham naivadhyaathayeth || sl.64

The person who is asleep, who is in drunken state, who is devoid of clothes or weapons, the lady, the minor, the helpless, the afraid one who deserts the battle field should not be killed. [2, 75]

As Bharatavarsha found out in the medieval period, there are some enemies who specifically mandate the opposite.

Rakshasa Yuddha involved an enemy who breaks all the rules. Atrocities are committed against civilians, who are not spared. Any unchivalrous method can be applied by this honourless foe. In fact, chivalry is seen as ‘markaz i jahalat’, or crassly stupid, as per such barbarians. War is not a mere tournament of arms, but as stipulated by Maharishi Vasishta himself, a means to protect one’s subjects, rescue weak from strong, and punish the wicked. To this end, Achara Yuddha must be put aside, and Koota Yuddha utilised.

Koota Yudha is defined as ‘deceptive war’ by Chanakya. Nevertheless, its more correct meaning is Strategic War, as it is ultimately rooted in Koota Niti (Strategy). Modern War as conducted by foreigners breaks all the rules and indiscriminately slaughters and even commits biological atrocities against civilian populations. One need not similarly become demonic to fight demons. Instead, one must use strategy to outwit such foes and develop asymmetric means to defeat their dastardly weaponry, via both R&D and strategic design.

Dharma Yuddha

Above all this, of course, is the concept of Dharma Yuddha. Some have tried to liken it to a “Crusade” or its Saracenic counterpart, but it is neither. Dharma Yuddha is a war to restore Dharma. That is, all Kings who proclaim to uphold Dharma are mandated to come together to defeat and uproot those who are threatening its very existence. When facing an Adharmic opponent, Koota Yuddha is often not only needed, but even required.

The person who in order to save the brahmins, cows, women or minors gives up his own life is sure to attain eternal salvation [2,75]

All this is more appropriate discussion for another time. For now, the Principles of Dhanur Veda will be covered.

Initiation

Vasishta muni states that “The ideal time for teaching and learning archery is in the presence of ten stars —Hasta, Punarvasu (Rama’s star), Pusya, Rohini, Uttaraphalguni, Uttarbhadrapada, Uttarasada, Anuradha, Aivini, Revati“, and that this should be done on the third, fifth, seventh, tenth, twelfth, and thirteenth days of the lunar month, ideally on Sunday, Thursday, or Friday. [2, 6-7]

The tradition of purvaranga vidhana (ritual oblations to the divine) is stipulated, as is reverence to the teacher by the students. Prayers to Mahadev, Krishna, Brahma, and of course, Ganesha are also advised.

The warriors of the day were duly indoctrinated in the code of morality and duty. Thus the education of Dhrtarastra, Pandu and Vidura includes lessons in morality, history, tradition, Vedas and the allied literature, apart from military exercises. [7, 163]

Martial Arts

kalaripayattu-martial-art-of-kerala-500x500

In general, martial arts is a subset of the greater Dhanur Veda. In fact, these are more commonly associated with Kreeda, hence the term Military Science better suited for Dhanur Veda. Nevertheless, initiation into the different schools can take place. Some train at akhaaras learning malla and mushti yuddha (wrestling and boxing), and others learn more armed forms of martial arts, such as Kalaripayattu and Gatka.

Officially dating back to the venerable Guru Hargobind Singh ji,  “Gatka can be practiced either as a sport (khel) or ritual (rasmi).” It features aspects of armed and unarmed combat. It is practiced to this day.

More importantly however, again like its Southern counterpart, Gatka is a direct connection to the ancient Indic warrior ethos. It is an outgrowth of traditional Suhstra-Vidya, which in Punjabi is called Shastar Vidya ਸ਼ਸਤਰ ਵਿਦਿਆ, but has become a tradition in its own right. Sikh Dharma may be centuries old, but it draws from and is part of a millennia old Dharmic Civilization. Whether for sport or for safety, preserving and passing on its proud traditions remains important for Sikh: Citizen, and Soldier alike.

Procurement

Procurement of excellent weapons, armour, and other equipment are an important part of War. Ancient India was no exception. Dhanurveda being intricately connected with Dhanur Vidya (Archery), procurement of a good bow was elemental.

Characteristics of a good bow were given. All these can be discussed elsewhere. What is important for now is that, different types of bow even composite bows made of horn are also discussed. Ancient India was, for obvious reasons, known for the long bow. Qualities of arrows (and even poisoned arrows) are also discussed. But more than the bow, it was the bowman who was irreplaceable. Good people, after all, are hard to find.

Training

Chitrayuddha, practice of archery, is an essential aspect of training with the bow. Arjuna memorably shot arrows in the dark, and ultimately was able to strike the matsya yantra (fish machine) merely from a reflection. All this was due to practice and rigour in training.

Dhanurveda stipulates stringent rules for the selection and imparting of military instruction. Beyond the usual rules and rituals, it emphasised guna in pairing a soldier with a weapon of choice. Those with Sattvika guna should be paired with the Bow (dhanush). Those with Rajo-sattva should be paired with the Sword (khadga). Those of tamaso-rajas should be paired with the spear (kunta). And those of tamaso guna should be paired with the mighty mace (gadha).

In the ancient times, Acharyas in Dhanurveda were brahmanas (who were then barred from ruling and power politics). A preceptor excelling in 7 types of fighting was called a Saptayodha. One who is versed in 4 is called Bhargava. One in 2 is called Yodha, and if versed in 1 type, he is called Ganaka. Maharishi Aurva trained the mighty King Sagara, and the illustrious Saptarishi Vasishta, trained Sri Rama.

There are, of course, various methods of imparting training. Dhanurveda naturally begins with the bow.

Practice

Various methods for practice are stipulated, primarily for archery. These involve firing blunt arrows (and other suhstras) as practice weapons. These are very detailed in discussion and best discussed elsewhere. What is useful to know, is that Dhanur Veda discusses target practice for standing targets, moving targets, and even moving targets while on horseback. Success in this skill is more than just a matter of balance, but also technique.

 Holding the String (Gunamusti)

Pataakaa vakramushtischa simhakarnasthatthaiva cha |

Matsari kaakathundi cha yojaneeyaa yathaakramam || sl.84

Gunamusti is of five types — Pataka (Banner), Vajra-musti (thunder bolt), Simhakarna (ear of a lion), matsari (fish), Kakatundi (beak of a crow). These should be applied in proper places. [2, 23]

Dhanurveda specifies a number of different methods of holding the string. These influence not only the effectiveness of holding the arrow, but the precision of hitting the target. These are in turn combined with laksya (types of aim) and even types of bow draw (dhanurmushti) and bow posture.

Bow Postures (Vyaaya)

These are, of course, just a few of the basic aspects of training in Dhanur Vidya. Dhanur Veda proper is more complex. Though rooted primarily in archery, the Dhanur Veda Samhita of Vasishta is more detailed and covers operations as well.

Army Training

Contrary to our modern “I am an army of one!” ahankari-shikhandis, Dhanur Veda did not simply stipulate singular individual training. The Dharma of Collaboration requires not cooperation with the enemy, but cooperation with one’s countrymen and fellow soldiers.

Parasparaanurakthaa ye yodhaah shaarnga dhanurdharaah |

yuddha-jnaasthuragaarudaasthe jayanthi rano ripun || sl.182

The Warriors even armed with Saarnga bow (made of horn) who co-operate with each other and know battle-craft may beat enemies fighting them on horseback. [1, 141]

Moving and operating as a unit is nothing unique to a particular civilization. Here is Maharishi Vasishta on the infantry.

The infantry or the food soldiers should be of equal height. All of them should be equally expert in jumping an running. They should also be trained in moving backward (pascadga-manam), standing still (sthirikaranam), lying [down] (sayanam) running apace (dhvanam) rushing  headlong into the hostile army and moving in different directions in accordance with signals” [2, 69-70]

Horses and even elephants were to be trained as well. Indian mahouts were celebrated for their skill with the elephant and ankush (goad). A good driver would bond with his elephant, which was celebrated for its loyalty and fierce defence of its master in war.  All these involved detailed elements of raising an army. What about deployment?

Military Operations

Niti

Preparation and deployment of one’s defence forces is not a simple method of theory and orders. Strategic planning, selection and training of personnel, order-of-battle, selection of ground/place/time, and formations—all play a role in making successful contact with the enemy. Whether to oppose in the field or to prepare for a siege or to even engage in guerilla warfare via tribal allies (atavi), are all complicated aspects that are covered by Dhanurveda in general and Sainyara-vidya in particular.

While Naval forces (Samudra Sena) and naval operations are mentioned, they are better discussed elsewhere. The great Naval expeditions of Kalingas, Cholas, and the Vijayanagara Empire are important to Sainyara-vidya, but Land warfare being central to Dhanurveda, necessitates focus on that type of war first.

Strategic Planning

The Vasistha Dhanurveda Samhita specifically has a section called Samgraamavidhih. That is, it establishes the importance of war strategy. Though it does not go into depth, it becomes apparent that success in war is more than just about mere proficiency in weapons or even numbers. All the elements of the Art of War were required to come together under the command of skilled general who understood that ‘prudence is the handmaiden of victory’.

The Atharva Veda (7.12.2) “recommends the formation of an advisory Samiti that could chalk out the plan and decide the strategy to fight out the war. The members of such a Samiti are called Narista…All the members of this council have to work collectively.” [1,18]

Personnel

Vasishta muni writes the following regarding selections of Senadhipatis and Senanis:

Listen O Visvamitra! that the Commander-in-chief should be physically fit, learned and powerful kshatriya. He should also treat all his subordinates equally. He should prove his intelligence in arranging the army in array and also provide such work to the infantry that fits it. [2, 73]

Qualifications of a Commander

           1. He must be conversant with the art of fighting a war (RV.1.114.4)

           2. He should possess exemplary character ( RV. 2.33.8)

           3. A Vajrabahu (one with arms like a thunderbolt) inspires confidence in troops.

          4. He should be a Pururupa(one who can handle all types of situations (RV.2.33.9))

          5. He should be a sahasraaksa (one who is equipped with a spying system (YV))

         6. He should be an outstanding warrior (Avevirah) (AV. 19.2.2)

Competent military and strategic leadership is paramount. As even the Vedas recognised, an intelligence network to surveil the enemy to determine capabilities/intentions, and to do basic reconnaissance on the field was important. Win or lose, a general is not allowed to be surprised.

Soldier – He should be swift in action, have great courage, be fearless and bright, and be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. He must be proficient in arms, and expert in his tasks, and possess requisite knowledge of army rules and regulations.

The Hindus display bravery not surpassed by the most warlike nations and will throw away their lives for any consideration of religion or honour. [1, 30]

Even Women could be recruited (though generally not for frontline combat). A secondary line battalion consisting of women could be put at the command of the mahishi (chief queen). It is this tradition of warrior women that could be seen from Kaikeyi down to Rudrama Devi to Rani Durgavati. [1, 29]

Above all, “Foremost qualification of the warrior is that he must be deeply in love with his motherland. It is only then he can put his whole soul to save his motherland from all sorts of troubles.” [2, 28]

Logistics

Logistics is crucial to warfare in any era. After all, an army marches on its stomach and gold is the sinews of war. As such, “all kinds of facilities are to be provided to army men. A special type of clothing, proper nursing, food, living accommodation, clubs, playground, hospitals, places of the prayers and educational facilities are to be provided” [1, 29]

The Mahabharata makes reference to a position similar to that of Quarter-Master General. Yudhisthira appoints Nakula (a famed swordsman in his own right) to maintain records of the various forces, secure supplies (especially food and water), and ensure prompt payment.

Repeated stress is laid on the importance of regular and punctual payment of wages and rations to the army; irregularity in this may lead to disaffection or even rebelllion. In the Sabha parva Naarada asks Yudhisthira if he pays his troops in advance before he marches, and if he supports the wives and children of men who lay down their lives for him, or undergo misery on his account. [7,149]

In the medieval period, the Army of Vijayangara was fabulously well-supplied. It was a veritable moving city that accompanied the Emperor.

Encampment

The army camp should be established at prudent (and auspicious) hours and avoid encroaching upon various burning grounds, temples, and other places of sanctity. “The ground, preferably level and abounding in grass and fuel, is properly measured for an encampment; a moat is dug around to protect it, and guards are stationed at important posts. Door-keepers and sentinels keep watch outside the tents of the chief heroes and princes. Stocks of arms and armaments, food and water are in evidence, and physicians and mechanics form part of the establishment.” {7, 151]

Discipline was to be maintained and stockades and watch towers erected for protection. Contrary to the current civic culture (or lack thereof), Ancient Indian military discipline (particularly in camps) was strict. Bivouacking was an orderly process, cleanliness and carelessness to be avoided, and clamour kept to a minimum.

Campfollowers were numerous, with doctors, purveyors of food stuffs, musicans, merchants, and vesya (women of the night). This practice was eventually banned by Chhatrapati Shivaji, due to the disrespect shown to women by foreign invaders.

The camp is, above all, a place for soldiers and warriors. The seriousness of the task and the adherence to strategy must be remembered.

Battles

battlefield-of-kurukshetra

Organisation

Over the years, military organisation has changed given the size and needs of military forces. As gloriously recounted in the Mahabharata, these could reach fantastic levels that may stretch credulity in the modern day, and yet, align with the internal logic.  The Battle of the Kurukshetra featured 7 Akshauhinis on the Pandava side and 11 Akshauhinis for the Kauravas.

1 chariot and 1elephant, 3 horses and 5 foot soldiers = 1 patti.

3 pattis = 1 senamukha. 3 senamukhas = 1 gulma.3 gulmas = 1 gana.3 ganas = 1 vaahini

3 vaahinis = 1 prtana. 3 prtanaas = 1 chamu. 3 chamus = 1 aneekini.

10 aneekinis = 1 Akshauhini [1,17]

1 Akshauhini

21,870 Chariots; 21,870 Elephants; 109,305 Infantry; 56,610 Cavalry

With a ratio of 1: 1: 5: 3, the approximate total is 209,700 soldiers.

This would bring the total on the Kurukshetra to 4 million. It is an amazing number indeed, which would number in the more modest hundreds of thousands in the post-Legendary period.

The army of Chandra Gupta for example was estimated to be 600,000 infantry; 30,000 cavalry; 10,000 chariots; 9,000 War elephants. In late antiquity, the Imperial Pratiharas were said by middle eastern chroniclers to field 4 armies for the 4 cardinal directions, each numbering 800,000 soldiers—for a total of 3.2 million men. Ancient India was, not for nothing, known for its armies. But armies are one thing, and generalship another.

India has fielded many great and intelligent generals, none more so than Krishna (the real commander of the Pandava armies). Nevertheless, legendary figures aside, “historical” figures such as Ajatashatru, Samudra Gupta, and Chhatrapati Shivaji all made their marks on history. It is only a recent matter for Indians to forget the importance of strategy & generalship.The Republic of India must remember this again.

And after making the decision to take the field, the next decision for any general is how order-of-battle should take form.

Formations (Vyuha)

The Vyuhas are one of the most legendary aspects of ancient Indic armies. Perhaps no vyuha is more legendary than the chakravyuya famously featured in the Mahabharata. A formation of envelopment, it was notoriously difficult to enter, and as young Abhimanyu discovered, even more difficult to exit.

Despite the legendary aspects of the Kurukshetra War, the importance of Vyuhas was retained long into the entry of Common Era. Though divyastras obviously were not used, deployment in concentrated force with proper arrangement remained important. The four divisions of the army (chaturanga-bala) that would inspire chess (chaturanga), which would feature an elephant corps, a cavalry corps, chariot corps, and infantry. All these would be deployed per the needs of battle.

  1. Chakravyuha — Discus formation
  2. Makaravyuha — Crocodile formation
  3. Syenavyuha — Hawk formation
  4. Garudavyuha — Eagle formation
  5. Varahavyuha — Boar formation
  6. Gajavyuha — Elephant formation
  7. Sakatavyuha — Waggon formation.This is ideal if surrounded or expecting rear attack
  8. Kraunchavyuha — Bird formation
  9. Simhavyuha — Lion formation
  10. Sarpavyuha — Serpent array
  11. Agnivyuha — Fire array
  12. Gomutrika — Echelon or Zig-zag
  13. Pippeelika — Ant array
  14. Ardhachandra — Half moon formation
  15. Sarvatobhadra — Hollow square
  16. Suchimukha — Needle array
  17. Danda — Staff formation
  18. Gulma — Bush formation
  19. Mandala — Hollow Circle formation
  20. Padmavyuha — Lotus formation
  21. Srenika — ranks/rows
  22. Bhoja — column
  23. Asanhata — detachments of various units into penny packets

Many of these may seem rather intricate and complicated to our modern eyes. Nevertheless, there are certain important principles that come from this. As seen above with the Garuda vyuha, there is very much a concept of organisation and backup planning. Contrary to the current school of thought that assumes a disorganised mass of chivalrous soldiers in unthinking frontal charges, methodical deployment was very much a practical art. Above all, is the fact that the concept of keeping reserves was emphasised — a reality that frequently turned the tide of key battles in history. Placing the chariots in front, elephants next to break the enemy lines, followed by the infantry is specified. Siva Dhanurveda specifically mentions the placing of cavalry on the wings, in sloka 179.

Ancient Indian Warfare was certainly practical. If one does not believe in combining mantra with suhstra, then the place of supernatural astras is reduced, and rather than spiritual, more material weapons will be emphasised. That is the nature of war, as well as the nature of RMA.

Sieges

Some of the most successful wars are conducted not in the field, but inside the fort. From the Vedic times of Purandara (destroyer of forts) to Chanakya to Chhatrapati Shivaji, the Indic Durg has been a crucial part of Dhanurveda. The most successful armies in history were those that mastered the art of conducting the siege. This involves more than just investment of fortified cities, but also the defense of even fortified positions and redoubts.

The frontiers of the country were expected to be guarded by forts, with the intention of perimeter defence or defence-in-depth. Terrain was taken into close consideration, and measures such as investment, artillery, and mining discussed to take opposing forts.

For the purposes of brevity,  a simple discussion of forts will be discussed here to dovetail with Sthapatya Veda:

Mountain fort (giri durgam), Forest fort (vana durgam), Water fort (jala durgam), Clay/Cave fort (panka/guha durgam), Chariot fort (ratha durgam), Divine fort (divya durgam, has extensive fortress with efficient defensive system), and Mixed fort (mishra durgam, situated among both both mountains and forest). [1, 45]

A land fort is the easiest to capture, a river fort more difficult and the mountain fort most difficult. From the point of a view of a besieged king, a mountain fort is preferable to a river fort which is better than a land fort (7.12.2) — Arthasastra

Important Texts

Dhanurveda

Siva Dhanurveda

Vasishta Dhanurveda

Ausanas Dhanurveda

Jamadagni Dhanurveda

Vaisampayana Dhanurveda

Ramayana

Mahabharata

Agni Purana

Matsya Purana

Visnudharmottara Purana

Akasa Bhairava Tantra

Arthasastra

Manasollasa

Yukti Kalpa Taru

Veeramitrodaya

Samrangana Sutradhara

Niti Prakasika

Veerachintamani of Sarangadhara

Application

Vedic scholars were well aware that ‘armies can signify but little unless there is  council or a wise management at home‘. The efficiency of an army is thus very much dependent on the efficiency of the ministry of defence.

In the legendary times, the sarvasreshta dhanurdharas (Sagara, Sri Rama, Bhishma, Arjuna) could all reputedly summon divine weapons (divyastras) that would unleash firepower that normal chariot borne archers could not match. Obviously in the present time, these seem to stretch credulity. Nevertheless, keeping in mind the internal logic of Divine involvement in the affairs of man (which even Homer includes in the Iliad) one could understand the devastating effect these dhanush-wielders could have. Bhishma himself swore to wipe out 10,000 soldiers a day with the firepower he commanded.  With these dhanurdharas as the centerpiece of the Indic armies of Legendary times, one understands the emphasis placed on them why they were deployed the way they were.

The Epic material provies depth to the pic-ture that we have gleaned from our Vedic sources. The nature of the Vedic literature precludes the possibility of the graphic des-criptions of warfare which we can find in the Epics. The echoes of the Mahabharata can be detected in the Vedic literature and, as we have pointed out time and again in our text, some of the Epic tradition is indeed very ancient. Chariots in the Epic are the invincible instruments of battle [due to the Dhanurdharas they carried]; elephants and cavalry play role of comparative insignificance. …By the time Alexander came to India, things had changed; the chariots were there of course, but the real responsibility of attack and defence had shifted to the elephants and the cavalry. ” [7, 2]

Weapons

Standard Weapons are divided into mukta (released from the hand), amukta (held), mukta-amukta (may or may not be thrown ), and yantra mukta (released by artillery/engines). We also find another division of suhstra, yantra, and mantra. Mantra will obviously not be considered here.Nevertheless, ancient Indian war was more in line with how the native cinema depicts, rather than foreign indologists, who seem to imply that the society that had the best metallurgy somehow did not believe in armour and helmets. That is why it is important to not deconstruct a tradition, but to study it as a continuum.

Continuity in these traditional weapons is seen even outside strict Vaidika Dharma, as Sikh Dharma and its warrior-saints used them to great effect.

Technology

Technology is a trendy topic, particularly in what we presently consider to be a technologically advanced age. Some topics are controversial, while others not so much. One area that has been acknowledged by almost all parties is the advanced state of Indian metallurgy—particularly in the forging of blades.

The famous crucible steel (Wootz) had its origin in India. The Chera steel was renowned for its quality. Indian iron smiths must have invented the ‘wootz’ process in the 6th or early 5th century B.C. Ktesias saw two wonderful swords of Indian steel at the court of Artaxerxes Memnon. Herodotus speaks of the arrows of Indian soldiers tipped with iron.” [7, 102]

Hindu warfare (what has been acknowledged at least) has long been the subject of controversy. “Were divyastras really just pre-modern artillery?”  or the most notorious, “Come on, vimanas? Really?“. But the perhaps the most important one of all is the question of whether or not ancient India had independently invented gunpowder. That’s right, as discussed by this article, it has been averred that Eastern India (particularly Bihar) possessed excellent saltpetre mines which are crucial for firearms.

A number of ancient texts specifically refer to gunpowder (agnichoorna/ranjaka) and firearms (nalikaa). The Dhanurveda explicitly mentions nalikaa (guns) as well as goleem(bullets)

Even the Sukra Niti supports this:

In Sukraniti, the method and chemical composition for preparation of gunpowder has been given. Accordingly, five palas (582.5 mg) survaci slat, one pala (11.5 mg) of sulphur and one pala (11.5 mg) each of the charcoal received from the wood of arka (…asclepias giantia), snuhi and angaara plants by the Ayurvedic process of Sahdooma Putapaaka where a drug is prepared in a closed vessel placed in a pit. The above-mentioned salts and charcoals should be purified, powdered and mixed together. This mixture should then be soaked into the juices of snuhi, arka and garlic. It should be dried up in the sun and finally powdered like sugar, the substance will be gunpowder.” [1, 76]

Whether or not this is the case is for present day scholars to confirm. Nevertheless, these ancient texts make a convincing case for ancient firearms. At the very least they give insight into some of the ancient artillery Indian armies featured.

Professor Wilson writes “Rockets…appear to be of Indian invention, and had long been used in native armies when Europeans came first in contact with them.” [1, 74] He goes on to say that ‘The Indians are from time immemorial remarkable for their skill in fireworks..” [1, 77] So much for “cracker-free” Diwali…

Engines of War were called Yantras. Some celebrated ones include the Sataghni (hundred-killer, asmaguda (catapult that pelts stone balls), ayoguda (weapon that pelts iron balls).

That elephants and chariots also carried yantras, is proved by a few references, but yantras in open battle seem to signify weapons in general. King Ajatasatru of Magadha, a contemporary of the Buddha, used a new engine of war against the [Vrjjis], called the mahasilakantaga, which must have been a stone-hurling contri-vance like those denoted by the Epic yantras. [7, 113]

When Alexander of Macedon set foot in the ancient Indosphere, his armies were said to have been scattered by a besieged Indian city which featured weapons of fire and lightning. These were unleashed following a terrifying pitch silence, soon broken by the sounds of thunder and cries of men.

For those of you familiar with the Byzantine Empire, there is, interestingly enough, even evidence that perhaps the famed “Greek Fire” may not have had a Greek origin after all. “The fire which burns and crackles on the bosom of waves denotes that the Greek fire was anciently known in Hindustan under the name of badavaa“. [1,75]

Ctesias, Elian and Phostratus all make reference to such an incendiary oil , saying “it is inextinguishable and insationable [sic], burning both arms and fighting men” [1, 75] Perhaps when the Arabs were crushed at Constantinople and during the Battles of Rajasthan, they may have in fact received “Greek fire” from both ends…

Personalities

Though the study of the Dhanurveda cuts across classes, this list will focus primarily on military commanders and direct operational planners. For brevity’s sake, this list will focus on both legendary commanders and warriors mentioned in the Puranas as well as “Historical” personalities from the Ancient, Medieval, and Late Medieval periods. Strategists and Commanding Generals of the Modern Era will be listed elsewhere.

King Prthu

King Sudasa

Maharishi Vishvamitra

King Sagara

Haihaya Karthaveerya Arjuna

Parashurama

Aikshvaku Raghu

Aikshvaku Rama

Bharata Dauhsanti

Bheeshma

Vasudeva Krishna

Arjuna

Jarasandha

Ajatashatru

Mahapadma Nanda

Chandragupta Maurya

Ashoka Maurya

Pushyamitra Sunga

Kharavela

Stabrobates

Sriharsha Vikramaditya

Gautamiputra Satakarni of Andhra

Samudra Gupta Ashokaditya

Chandra Gupta II Vikramaditya

Skanda Gupta Paraakramaditya

Narasimha Gupta Baladitya

Vikramaditya Panwar of Ujjain

Salivahana Panwar of Ujjain

Harsha Vardhana Shiladitya of Thanesar

Chalukya Pulakesin II

Karkota Lalitaditya of Kashmir

Pratihara Nagabhatta I & II

Rashtrakuta Dhruva Dharavarsha

Rashtrakuta Govinda III

Rashtrakuta Indra III

Dharmapala I of Vanga

Bhaskaravarman of Assam

Raja Suhel Dev

Haihaya Kalachuri Gangeyadeva

Paramara Bhoja

Chola Raja Raja I

Chola Rajendra I

Chalukya Rani Naiki Devi

Prithviraj Chauhan III

Ganga Bhanudeva II of Odisha

Rani Rudrama Devi

Kakatiya Prataparudra II

Hoysala Veera Ballala III

Musunuri Nayaks of Andhra

Maharana Kumbhakaran Singh of Mewar

Sangama Harihara & Bukka

Krishna Deva Raya

Venkatapati Deva Raya

Maharana Sangram Singh Sisodia

Maharana Pratap Singh Sisodia

Rani Durgavati

Lachit Bophurkan of Assam

Chhatrapati Shivaji Bhonsle

Admiral Kanhoji Angre

Baji Rao I

Maharaja Prithvi Narayan Sah of Nepal

Zorawar Singh

Banda Bahadur Singh

Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Hari Singh Nalwa

Sher Singh Attariwala

Marthanda Varma of Travancore

Conclusion

Clearly much water has flowed down the Ganga since the days of Dhanurveda’s first exposition. From the Imperial Armies of Magadha to the modern Day Indian Army, there is a long tradition of Military Science in Bharatavarsha.

For those who call for an Indic and Dharmic Way of War, it must be remembered that military lineages cannot commence with mere colonial regiments. Regimental and Tri-services pride aside, a society whose motto is Satyameva Jayate, must have lineages which work for the triumph of Truth, rather than colonial occupiers. But at the same time, one cannot be occupied or pre-occupied only with unthinking traditionalism or rote ritual.

The Dharmic way of War must necessarily adapt to the modern exigencies where victory is the only morality…

…and this is the cost of defeat.

The price of war is terrible, and therefore, must necessarily be practiced by professionals, whether strategists or soldiers. Knowledge of the Dharmic Art of War must be rooted in tradition, while being pragmatic enough to adapt to the Enemy. As Ovid wrote, it is right to learn, even from the Enemy.

It also means promoting those with a proper understanding of military history and modern strategy as overall Defense planners. This criticism was in turn criticised by the politically motivated, but leave aside gender and other considerations—is it not on point?

With V.K.Krishna Menon at the helm, Nehru planned to turn the Indian Army into a mere constabulary force of 100,000. Within a year or two, China launched a surprise attack (after similar Doklam type Chinese Checkers in Ladakh). The unmitigated disaster that was A.K.Antony was only further proof of the need for a governing class that has a strong affiliation for military affairs—beyond mere mantra japa of “Chanakya!“.

It is true, as those who actually understand global political affairs will tell you, that the risk of foreign funded military coups was at one point very great. One need only look at the Republic of India’s neighbour to the West to see just how frequent they could be. Even its neighbour to the North has come tantalisingly close to this very real reality of political life. The first step to fore-stalling or mitigating such risks would be to have a governing class that the officer class would not feel disgusted by. The current crop of the corrupt lining the IAS and the Rajya Sabha is exhibit A in a fool’s gallery of fops.

The Prime Minister has rather wisely been taking to the ancient nostrum of “minding the solidiers” and has restored a measure of trust between the Bharatiya Sena and the Bharatiya Sarkar. The current Raksha Mantri is a very efficient minister, and MP’s such as Rajyavardhan Rathore and Kiren Rijiju cut dashing figures. But the governing classes and would-be elites must build on even this, and regain a strong sense of the native Indic military sense, and military sense begins with strategic thinking. Winning in war is more than just a matter of mere numbers.

Api panchashatham suraa mrudananthi mahathim chamoom |

Athavaa pancha shat saptha vijayanthaanivarthinah || sl. 181

Even five hundred determined and well-trained soldiers can defeat a large army. Sometimes even five, six or seven such heroes who do not withdraw and fight bravely may emerge victorious [1,141]

—Siva Dhanurveda

If “war is too important to be left to the generals”, then it is definitely too important to be left to the hands of poets and pedants. Serious politicians with the Dharmic martial ethos and modern strategic education are required. The list of Dhanurveda personalities we listed above cut across caste and class, because they all faced the unignorable exigency of competence. All too much emphasis has been placed on Government, which in turn has become code for mere electioneering and politics. True Governance is rooted in Rajadharma, which is what is missing in today’s governing classes, with rare exception. An education in Governance and Modern Strategic Affairs is required to not only take the tradition of Dhanurveda into the Modern (and Post-Modern) era, but also to steer India and the rest of the world away from strategic disaster.

Indeed, the stakes of Dhanurveda are far higher than military honour or an “izzat ka sawal”. The very fate of humanity’s freedom depends on native Kshatriyata to re-emerge across caste lines focused above all on competence and character. We conclude this introductory article on the Indic Tradition of Dhanurveda and Dharma (and why they remain relevant), rather ironically, with a quote from a European General of whom you might have heard:

It is character that remains the Achilles heel of governing classes around the world, and India can no longer risk a governing class (or wannabe governing class) steeped in incompetence, completely clueless on strategic affairs, and utterly hypocritical and characterless. Those who are so compromised they induct and promote foreign “acharyas” to teach Indians how to “decolonise” are the least qualified to govern…period—their claims to “Chanakyanism” aside.

Vishvaksena Janardhana

It is time to  return to Krishna Niti. To properly understand modern Military Affairs, the ethos of the Kshatriya (the native Bharatiya Kshatriya) is required to train, mentor, and anoint a governing class across caste lines. That is the path of not only the Dhanurveda of King Prthu, but of Dharmic Civilization’s Revival itself.


References:
  1. Arya, Ravi Prakash. Dhanurveda – The Vedic Military Science.Rohtak: Indian Foundation for Vedic Science (Amazon Books).  2014
  2. Ray, Purnima. Vasishta’s Dhanurveda Samhita.Delhi: J.P.Publishing House.
  3. Gaur, Niketan. Sthapatya Ved-Vastu Sastra: Ideal Homes, Colony and Town Planning. New Delhi: New Age Books. 2009
  4. Rangarajan, L.N. Edit, Kautilya. The Arthashastra. New Delhi. Penguin.1992
  5. Sukra Niti
  6. Kota, Venkatachalam.
  7. Singh, Sarva Daman. Ancient Indian Warfare.Delhi: MLBD.1997
  8. Pappu, Venugopala Rao. Nrtta Ratnavali of Jayasenapati. Kakatiya Heritage Trust. 2013

Classical Indic Literature V: Romantic Sanskrit Poetry 3

Those of you familiar with our Post on Madan Utsav are no longer wondering whether Bharatavarsha had its own Festival of Love. But what if we told you there were not one but two festivals where lovers honoured and celebrated each other, and secret prayers for romance to fructify were offered to the Gods.

Sharad Rtu (autumn) is famous throughout India as the season of moonlight. The very sight of the full moon itself brings many thoughts of Sringara rasa.

Therefore, in honour of the ancient Kaumudi Utsav—celebrated on Ashvina Purnima, we give you Part 3 in our Set on Romantic Sanskrit Poetry.

While most of your are familiar by now with the peerless Mahakavi Kalidasa, today’s poet is uniquely talented in the art of Sringara Kavya. From the supple and spritely verses sauntering in the sophistication of simplicity, we give you the very pangs of separation incarnate.

Today’s installment on Classical Indic Literature features that beautiful work of Bhavabhuti called the Uttararamacharita.

Author

Bhavabhuti’s patron is thought to be Yasovarman of Kannauj, and is thus dated to the 8th century CE. Though there are debates as to Bhavabhuti’s correct time period, it is known that his ancestral home was Padmapura in the Dakshinapatha. Udumbara was the surname of his family, which was of the Kasyapa gotra. Udumbara may also correlate to the present Amraoti of Maharashtra, which was previously called Audambaravati, city of fig trees. Nevertheless, this family was of the Taittiriya school of the Krishna Yajurveda. Five generations prior was also a Mahakavi in the family. Bhavabhuti’s grandfather was Bhatta Gopala and his father was Nilakanta. Some hold that Bhavabhuti’s actual name was Srikantha, with Bhavabhuti as his title. His mother was Jatukarni. His tutor, Jnananidhi, was considered a master scholar. This Jnananidhi schooled him in the Vedas, the traditional systems of philosophy, grammar, and rhetoric. Bhavabhuti was certainly well acquainted with the Upanishads. Thus, along with being a master poet, Bhavabhuti was a master scholar himself. [1]

There is some indication that he was considered a rival of Kalidasa (if not in fact contemporaneous with him). Other non-contemporaneous rivals mentioned in the Bhojaprabandha include Bana and Mayura, and the Goddess Bhuvanesvari said to have anointed Bhavabhuti the best. Irrespective, if Kalidasa excelled at depicting Romance (sringara), Bhavabuti was an expert portrayer of Pathos (karuna) and Heroism (veera). Karuna is especially seen through the sympathetic portrayal of the separation of Sita and Rama,in the Uttararamacarita. If Kalidasa is “the Grace of Poetry”, Bhavabhuti is the “Master of Loquence”[1]. If the former is more idealistic and romantic, the latter is more realistic and varied.

Bhavabhuti was a great stylist and had a wonderful command over language; he was skilled in adjusting the sound of his verse so as to be an echo to the sense. [1,19]

The great author is known to have written three dramatic works: These are Mahaviracharita, Malati-Madhava, & Uttararamacharita.

The chief merit of Bhavabhuti’s plays, apart from questions of languages, lies, however, in their high moral tone. Even in describing ordinary human love, Bhavabhuti never wanders into the sensuous; he has probed the depths of romantic passions without descending to appeals to mere lust. He maintains a dignified gravity throughout; his ideal of a lover is one who obliterates self [1, 19-20]

Mahaviracharita is considered to be the earliest and covers the life of Sri Rama from his childhood to his later victory over Ravana and return to Ayodhya. Malati-Madhava is a love story in 10 acts. Uttararamacharita deals with the separation of Sita and Rama.

Composition

Sometimes the truth isn’t good enough. Some times people deserve to have their faith rewarded.

The Uttara Kanda of the Ramayana is one that leaves feminists aflutter in fury, but more importantly, leaves devotees and romantics alike afflicted with the pangs of pathos. One cannot help but shed tears, not only for Sita, who after all her suffering, was fated to be slandered by idle gossip, but also for Ram, who had to uphold the rigid Dharma of the Treta Yuga, and banish his beloved pativrata.

If the wife of mere Caesar had to be above suspicion, is it any wonder that the Chakravartin of Ayodhya’s had to be as well? Such laws have no place in our time of easy lies and facile gossipy gupshup. But even those of us who loathe cruel kimvadanthi can’t help but be deeply unhappy at the doom these two transcendental lovers were fated to suffer. Even the great Bhavabhuti, who authored the Mahaviracharita that celebrated Rama’s prowess, asked Vidhaatha, “Is this how you end it?“.

Determined to set things right, Bhavabhuti decided to give an ending he believed to be worthy of such a Divine Couple.

A nataka (drama) in 7 parts, the Uttararamacharita, like its predecessor, the Mahaviracharita, is a work that celebrates an episode from the Ramayana. The naayaka (hero) is a dheerodaatta (generous & self-sacrificing) and the naayika is a sveeya (one’s own rightful lover). While there is no pratinayaka (villain), the vastu (plot) is considered historical. [1, 22] While the earlier work is steeped in veera rasa, the later one is replete with soka as its sthayibhaava. While we feel the pathos of the protagonists through Karuna rasa, we also get ripples of romantic Sringara Rasa—the king of the rasas.

Sringara Rasa, as discussed in our previous article, is divided into Sambhoga and Viprayoga. While the former deals with lovers-in-union, the latter deals with lovers-in-separation. Quite possibly the epitome of viprayoga sringara was personified by that epitome of Dharma: the Divine Couple of Sita-Rama.

As such, Uttaramaracharita is very much work on viprayoga. Much maligned by misandrist feminists today, Bhagavan Ram’s deep-seated pain is searingly catalysed into our being, by Bhavabhuti kavi.

An interesting point that exposes the agendas of the “many Ramayanas crowd” is that if all Ramayanas are equally valid, then so is the Uttararamacharita—anyways based on the Uttara kanda. So either only Valmiki Ramayana is valid or the entire industry of India-hating feminists must accept the Uttaramacharita where Rama is not only reunited with Sita, but where the Goddess Ganga herself justifies Rama’s action as King who accepted the popular will.

In any event, one cannot help but be moved by the agony in Raghava’s heart. He who laid low the haughty brahma-rakshasa Ravana, now stood powerless once more before the high burden of Dharma.

The crown prince of Kosala could give up his rightful throne as if it were a speck of dust, but how could the King of Kosala banish his beloved wife, whom he rescued from Ravanasura? His duty as a king came before his duty as a husband, but that he nevertheless suffered the pain of parting becomes apparent in Bhavabhuti’s opus. Selection I alone is proof of this.

Those of you with commercial preferences for the crass persianised pidgin poetry of Bollywood may first require an immediate primer on real Romance. For the rest of us, however, the more sophisticated sensibilities of Sringara Sanskrita Kavya are more appealing to aesthetes and connoisseurs with more refined tastes.

Before we begin with the Poetic selections, in honour of the occasion, here is a brief overview of the Kaumudi Utsav.

Kaumudi Utsav

The sanskrit word kaumudi comes from the term for moonlight. As you will read in the selections below, such beauteous comparisons are not infrequent in Classical Indian Literature. They bring to mind wondrous thoughts of sleepy serene vales and dreamy autumn nights, when great love is painted on the canvas of existence.

It is in fact still celebrated in many parts of India, notably Assam, as the end of the Monsoon. Ashvin Purnima is known as Kojagiri Purnima and Sharad Purnima elsewhere. Appropriately, the Sharad Purnima itself is dedicated to none other than Goddess Lakshmi.

So without further ado, we bring you the love story of the Uttama Purusha through the Poetry of Bhavabhuti’s Uttaramacharita.

Selections
§

I.Tatkaalam Priyajana viprayoga janmaa

Teevro’pi pratikruti vaanchhaya visodah |

Duhkhaagnir manasi punar vapachya maano

Hrunmarma vrana iva vedanaam karoti || A.1,Sl.30

The fire of grief arising from the separation of my beloved, however fierce, was at that time borne by me through the desire for retaliation; but now, reviving in my breast, it causes agony like a wound festering in the vital part of my heart . [1,9]

 §

II.Iyam gehe Lakshmiriya mamruta varthirnayanayo-

Rasaavasyah sparsho vapushi bahulaschandana-rasah |

Ayam baahu kante sisiramasrno mauktikasarah

Kimasyaa na preyo yadi parama sahyastu viraha || A.1, Sl. 38

She is the very Lakshmi of my house, and a pencil of nectar to my eyes;

Her touch is a thick sandal-paste to my body; this her arm twined round my neck is as cooling and as smooth as a pearl-string; what about her would not be pleasing, but separation from her is exceedingly unbearable. [1,11]

§

III.Paripandu-durbala-kapola-sundaram

Dadhatee vilolakabaree-kamaananam|

Karunasya moorthiratha va sareerini

Virahavyatheva vanameti Janaki || A.3.Sl.4

The daughter of Janaka, her countenance charming owing to its pallid and emaciated cheeks and her loosened braids waving about, coming to the wood like the very image of pity, or rather lie the pain of separation incarnate. [1,26]

§

IV.Sramaambu sisiree-bhavath prasruthamandha mandhaakini

Maruttha-ralithaalak-aakula lalaata chandra dhyuthi |

Akunkuma-kalankithojjvala-kapolamut prekshyathe

Niraabharana sundara sravana paasa mugdham mukham || A.6, Sl.37

I remember her face, as it was cooled by the perspiration caused by fatigue

with its beautiful moon-like forehead overhung with her tresses, disheveled by the gently blowing breezes of the Mandakini

with its cheeks bright, not being marked with saffron-paint and engaging with its well-formed ears, charming in their unadorned state. [1,71]

§

V.Ethaani te suvachanaani saroruhaakshi

Karnaamruthaani manasascha rasaayanaani A.1, Sl.36

These thy words, O lotus-eyed one, cause the withered flower of my life to bloom,

[they] Gladden me, lull all my senses into peace, serve as nectar to the ears and as a sovereign balm to the heart.[1,11]

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§

VI.Advaitham sukha dukha yoranu gunam sarvaasavasthasu ya-

Dvisramo hrudayasya yathra jarasaa yasminna haaryo rasah |

Kaalenaa varanaatya yath parinathe yath premasare sthitham

Bandra tasya sumaanu shasya kathama pyekam hi tat praapyate || A.1, Sl.39

Blissful is that fortunate man who, somehow, obtains that one thing—pure matchless…

love—which is the same in happiness or misery, which adapts itself to all conditions, where the heart finds its solace, the flavour of which is unaffected by old age, and which matures, as time removes the veil of reservedness, into permanent deep affection.[1,12]

§

VII.Tvam jeevitam tvamasi me hrudayam dvitiyam

Tvam kaumudi nayanayor amrutam tvamange

A.3, Sl.26

You are my very life, you are my second heart; you are the moonlight to my eyes and ambrosia to my limbs. [1,34]


References:
  1. Kale, M.R.The Uttararamacarita of Bhavabhuti. Delhi: MLBD.2010
  2. Winternitz, Moriz.History of Indian Literature. Vol 1.Delhi: MLBD.1996
Acknowledgement: My gratitude to the young man who once more lent his voice to give life to these lyrics. An example to other young men on how to respect young ladies.

Grow Up, Bharatiyas

Indian politics remains one of those intriguing contradictions. Young nation-Old Civilization, Land of Dharma-Many Sampradayas, and with the commencement of Navaratri, it is key to note that it is also a nation of both Kaali and Sita. Yet no dichotomy remains more pertinent than Politically Independent-Mentally Colonised. Part of this is due to the nature of macro-politics, but much of it is due to the simplistic and even childish approach many Indians take to what is a strategic and highly sophisticated game.

Politics is not so simple as “Kalki Avatar!”. For starters, many of the self-proclaimed traditionalists themselves don’t realise that Kalki Bhagavan isn’t scheduled to arrive for another 427,000 years. What will you do until then? Many of the same ‘traditionalists’ are anointing Hindu beef-eating promoters as ‘pure satvic‘, so perhaps the time has come for people to look within.

Perhaps the problems are so great that not a single government—elected or otherwise—is capable of actually ensuring Dharma samsthapana. How is this possible you ask? Look no further than the world’s oldest democracy, and understand the debate that is going on there.

To properly understand the nature of sub-national, pan-national, and international politics, one must understand the nature of macro-politics. If you still believe this is a clash of civilizations rather than a clash for civilization, you are still clueless. If you still believe that prime actors are national actors rather than transnational actors, you are still clueless. If you still believe that only your caste, and no other caste will restore Dharma, than you are dumber than a post . Rather than doing 24/7 tom-tom (or supporting those who do), shouldn’t you being doing or promoting useful things?

The British were famous for the sociopathic pleasure that took in insulting people to their faces…and Indians, for their unique talent in being oblivious to that. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

If Bharatiyas, and other nations of humanity, are in the doldrums today, it is their own rejection of Virtue all while wearing their religiosity or anti-religiosity on their sleeves.

Make no mistake: However much we criticize Bharatiyas here, this is an international problem.

Problems specific to Indians in general and Hindus in particular have already been diagnosed here and here. But the main problem is an international one. It is one that plagues humanity as a species. Rather than not getting enough pleasure, it is getting too much of it.

Liberals of Delhi

Head-up-your-ass-itis may be a universal condition, but its Indian strain is particularly virulent. Exhibit A: Moron hindus RT’ing non-Hindus referring to “moron hindus”, albeit, by quotation.

Supporting people who proffer apologia for the well-known and well-documented British role in the Partition of India only shows how the so-called “RW” is as colonised as the “LW”. Ceding space to outsiders to a degree where they actually call you morons to your face while arrogating the position to lecture you on how to “decolonise” only shows RW Hindus are no less moronic than their “left” or “Hindu Left” counterparts. Getting respect starts with self-respect.

Devdutt Pattanaik’s detestable books pervert our Dharma through his perverted interpretations. Nevertheless, the crux of this article here is, sad to say, correct.

Far be it from me to support anything he writes, but it is the height of stupidity for RW’ers to knee-jerk respond by publishing the self-same british partition apologist’s mockery of not only Pattanaik’s thesis, but any Hindu calling into question the role of Foreign Saviours—a well-documented phenomenon even in the West. This left-wing bigot’s caste caricature should be condemned, but isn’t his general point about “Right-wingers” here correct?

Having to discuss nationality is unseemly & unfortunate when one is faced with not a clash of civilizations but in fact a clash for civilization; nevertheless, it is necessary. One cannot ignore the historic, well-documented and well-known role of De Nobili and other such foreign saviours used by foreign “universal” institutions to co-opt and ultimately replace first native spiritual leadership

 …and then ultimately “political leadership”.

And that is what is lacking today among Bharatiyas: Leadership.  They are quick to seek out videshis to settle native disputes, while whining about colonialism. They are quick to ally with their foreign enemies in order to defeat their native rivals. They are quick to anoint foreigners as “Acharya” who misinterpret our sacred texts for Liberal purposes:

all while arrogantly abusing their own orthodox native ones without provocation:

Perhaps that is the greatest oddity: The worst casteists are often the biggest foreign slaves. That is the true danger of Aryan Invasion Theory. It pits Indian against Indian, while giving justification for wannabe Indian elites to become mental, spiritual, and ultimately political slaves of supposedly more “genetically pure” Aryan foreigners…Just as FC Casteist needs BC Casteist, Right Wing needs Left Wing. All this is Liberalism anyway (Classical Liberalism (RW) vs Progressive Liberalism (LW). All this is why the casteist Right Wing is as colonised as the casteist Left Wing, and why a true Dharma Paksa—a Bharatiya Dharma Paksa—is what is required.

It is fine to question our Acharyas—particularly in this questionable era—but even this must be done with respect and Maryada…or at the very least Sabhyata.

DharmaMandir

True, “holy men” aren’t above the law (let alone Dharma), but the standards of law vis-à-vis men of the cloth must be equally applied. Are they? More than that, society should not be so quick to judge those who are ministering to others—and rebuilding Rta in their own way. That is also why—contrary to ambitious casteists of all kinds—there is a distinction between religio-spiritual leadership and politico-strategic leadership. Each has its role to play and its own variety of intellectualism to embody. Let the real Bharatiya Acharyas do what they must to spread the Dharma, and let those creating risible mythologies of “greatest political genius” leave politics to the competent professionals. But that is precisely the problem—a surplus of Ego that focuses on ambitions and (alleged) rights rather than necessities and duties.

Bharatiyas are infected by a pestilence of petulance so puerile that even a 1% disagreement with their own side results in a rhetorical (or actual) fight-to-the-death. The self-same hypocritical  do-nothings whine about westerners misinterpreting our texts but don’t call out “native” Indians misinterpreting them to further Aryan Invasion Theory. The self-same hypocritical do nothings will whine about Bose’s promotion of urdu but then  then double back and furnish apologia for M.F.Hussain’s bigoted and perverted paintings of Hindu goddesses. The very same M.F.Hussain’s who sins against Hindus go beyond overrated art (his initials are certainly apt). Funny how those who whine most about “cuckoldry” end up supporting those who further such an agenda. This is why your friends cannot be anointed to run your own homes. The great Kashmiri satirical writer Kshemendra wrote of such unwelcome guests who abuse and overstay their own welcome—despite coming in the guise of ‘acharyas’. That is why in the Kali Yuga, Atithi Devo Bhava does not apply. Observation of Atithi Dharma (by both sides) does.

There was a well-known criticism of Nehru that applies to self-appelled RW’ers and “trads” today: the type of intellectual pinhead who didn’t know which way was up. If you don’t know your interests, if you don’t’ know friend from foe—or at least have the sense to put someone in the “can’t be too sure/not one of us” category—then what business do you have giving advice to all and sundry?

Acharyas of old were of the mold of Acharya Vishnusarman. They had not only the command of spiritual texts, but had the practical sense to detect and distinguish the native from the foreign, friend from foe, the Daivik from the Asuric.

VN_foolishfriend

Rather than falling for threads and textual recitation, they had the good sense to understand capability and intentions—that is true realism. Rather than supporting Philip Goldberg & Sheldon Pollock over Rajiv Malhotra, they would have the good sense & virtue to prioritise Dharma over Rna.

Politics ain’t beanbag, and macro-politics ain’t for amateurs, intellectual or otherwise. The first qualification for this is the ability to shut up.

VN_Silence

And this is single-biggest thing “moron hindus” lack understanding of today: the value of ‘shut up’.

Videshis aren’t here to save you because videshis aren’t interested in saving you. That is why they are always saving each other’s asses even while on opposite sides of the same Indian dispute. Does this mean all of them are malevolent?—No. But it does mean a guest is just a guest—and not a family member. It does mean you can’t afford the risk of replacing your leadership, your primary advisors, with them. Kaakollukiyam was written by Acharya Visnusarman—yet you recite his Panchatantra with out actually applying its lessons.

This thread is a case and point in the stupidity plaguing Indians, top to bottom.

One set of morons exult in their own self-loathing embrace of English (in the name of ‘egalitarianism!’) and another set make matters worse by insulting the locals whose state in which they are living.

This childish need for external validation/inclusion is emblematic of esteem issues. This type of falling over each other to defend all things foreign, including foreigners poking their nose in your own politics, is part of the problem. Foreign friends have their politics and we have ours. It is fine to exchange notes in the clash for civilization. It is good to appreciate friends, and India does have many foreign friends of all shades who genuinely appreciate India and support its culture. But your friends cannot run your own house. They have their own house (which they must set in order) and you have yours. Many people choose to marry within their own castes—fine. But if you consider inter-caste marriage to be the same as inter-religious or inter-national marriage, no wonder many of you think you have more in common with other nations. Each nation has its own house.

Let foreigners practicing Dharma revive it in their own nations rather than ministering to India. If the above movie clip is emblematic of the real views in avowedly equality-oriented immigrant societies, what of non-immigrant societies like India? India and Europe are not immigrant societies, but old societies with their own long-established cultures or peoples. For all the talk of universalism, funny how the foreign commentators chased by LW and RW Indian publications are always North of the Equator…but never South. Leave aside African Acharyas, would an African Sonia Gandhi have been as successful among Indiots? Wouldn’t that be true internationalism and true racial non-discrimination?

Comparing notes is one thing, “outsourcing” leadership is quite another. Will this spark off xenophobia?—No, it’s just a healthy skepticism and self-respect that is required if all nations are to preserve their uniqueness. Rather than raising racial rhetoric, it will draw more attention to institutions making slaves of all races. In the guise of “freedom”, human beings are unwittingly being subjected to a hierarchy of slavery. Contrary to casteists, varnashrama dharma is not a hierarchy of slaves, but a framework for duties. No caste or class can be “respected without exception”—hypocrites and criminals of all castes and classes will be punished. If the most “classless” of  communist societies simply ended up  creating 3 new classes, then what is fundamentally the problem is classist and casteist attitude. So long as your approach is “kick the one who licks and lick the one who kicks”, hierarchy of slavery is all you’ll be re-establishing. So which are the institutions subjecting mankind of all colours to slavery? As Voltaire wrote, find out whom you cannot criticise, and that is who rules you…directly, or indirectly.

And that is what makes the ahankari-shikandi outrage over the Pradhan Mantri to so laughable. For all the claims of “political genius” they are utterly clueless of the macro-politics Modi faces. Many of his government’s policies are wrong: aadhar, gst, non-repeal of RTE, and yes, even demonitisation. But are many/most of these unique to him?—or part of the chillar-mukht policies proliferating around the world. Rather than threatening to vote for congress, perhaps clueless casteists should dismantle their own (substantial) ignorance and start asking…

bono

This is why it is time for Bharatiyas to set aside nationalism and start promoting patriotism. Desa Dharma isn’t the same as Nationalism. Nationalism is “help my country, right or wrong”. Patriotism is “help my country distinguish right from wrong”. Nationalism is about superiority complexes; Patriotism is about loyalty to one’s native land. That is why the true patriot respects patriotism in others. It’s why a Scipio Africanus could meet Hannibal on the eve of Zama. Often times opposing generals, warriors, and even diplomats express admiration for the other side, and wonder how they might be have been friends were they on the same side.

There are many reasons to be upset at the Centre. But what are the international politics? What are the macro-politics? If the Centre is doing what it can do to buy you time—what are you doing with that time? Are you continuing to cavort in caste-cliques spreading asinine propaganda, or are you working together or with others to do your part for Dharma?

Daily news cycles and social media free-for-alls only accomplish so much. They are simple reactions to the greater strategic action of those subjecting you to slavery. Rather than asking “why not me?” when looking at others doing something you wish to do, ask “why me?”—to see if you are even qualified. What’s worse, is if you spend day in day out RT’ing videshis poking their noses into our own politics—what self-respect have you?

Wolf in sheep’s clothing is a well-known parable. Better yet is the Panchatantra tale of the Crows and Owls…so remember the lesson of the Kaakollukiyam. Rather than chase after the approval and advice of foreigners you can’t be certain of, work together with your countrymen to collaborate in common interest.

Time to get your acts together. Grow up Bharatiyas.

Exigencies of the Politico-Strategic

Vishvaksena Janardhana

Recently, an Admiral of the Bharat Nau Sena discussed a strategic estimation of India:

“The Economist weekly, in a 2013 article titled “Can India Become a Great Power”, seemed to put its finger on the reason: “India has the world’s 4th largest military,” it said, “and yet its political class shows little sign of knowing or caring how the country’s military clout should be deployed.” Warning India against “an unstable but dangerous Pakistan and a swaggering and intimidating China“, it observed: “The absence of a strategic culture and the distrust between civilian-run ministries and the armed forces has undermined military effectiveness.”

This quote relies on a famous critique of India by Rand in the early 90s. While it is historically inaccurate, it nevertheless has a large kernel of truth in the present era.

The root of this lies in all theory-but-little-practice armchair chanakyas who over-emphasise the venerable Acharya Chanakya. Pure strategy in fact does not begin with his Arthasastra, but with Lord Krishna and Krishna Niti. This is because strategy is directly (not indirectly) connected with on the ground operations (institutional, military, covert, or overt). If you don’t have “skin in the game”, if you don’t have a track record of competence, you don’t count. The “Intellectual Yet Idiot” has no accountability if his theory fails. The general, the political leader, or executive does. It’s his neck that’s on the line.

Arthasastra is absolutely a foundational text on Indic Statecraft, and it is not that Strategy didn’t exist in it in some form. But Statecraft isn’t Strategy, and certainly not Pure Strategy. If Politics translates to Rajaniti, then Statecraft is connected to Arthasastra, because Arthasastra, like Soopa Sastra, means more than the literal translation. Arthasastra is translated as Science of Wealth but it is fundamentally a work of Political Economy and Statecraft. While there are elements of strategy and strategic education—just as there are in Panchatantra and Hitopadesa—it is not the same as Pure Strategy, which requires flexibility and asymmetric creativity rather than formulae and minutiae.

Sun Tsu’s Art of War is  more a work of Pure Strategy than Statecraft, and the Arthasastra is the reverse. To understand Pure Strategy (Koota Niti in Sanskrit or Kruttik Niti in Shuddh Hindi), one must first understand its true definition: Winning or managing the competitive landscape by developing asymmetric advantages through long-term planning & application.

“Know yourself and Know your enemy and you will be victorious in a hundred battles”

Asymmetry necessarily requires not only knowledge and competence,but creativity and imagination: Deployment of small ships in the tight Salamis straits to defeat larger Persian triremes, the Roman corvus to defeat the Carthaginian navy, light cavalry and Maratha forts to ground down the pondering Mughals, and the Vietnamese tunnel system to tackle adversaries with air superiority. Such solutions are indeed given inspiration by historical study, but are nevertheless produced by application of imagination. That is the importance of competence, creativity, and courage in Strategic matters. Our current Kautilyas-wannabe lack all 3.

The Art of War does not list out every solution for every situation, but rather, provides the principles which inspire new solutions that fit the new situation. Most militaries (and armchair chanakyas) are busy fighting the last war, rather than developing the foresight to win the next one. This takes more than just memorisation of current and developing armaments/technologies or reading and recitation of historical trivia, but also requires understanding what capabilities need to be developed in the first place and understanding whether they are deployable and exploitable—and then following through.

Fortunately, though few in number, there are examples of competent strategists in modern India. Sardar Patel was one, Indira Gandhi another, certainly Sam Maneckshaw and Krishnaswamy Sunderji (of Chequerboard fame), and definitely K.P.S. Gill and P.V.Narasimha Rao. More recently, Brahma Chellaney and Ajit Doval. The common denominator is neither religion, nor caste, nor regional/ancestral background, nor gender, nor even education/intellectual proclivity. It is competence, creativity, & courage proven by practice.

Start with tackling small problems to qualify yourself to tackle bigger ones. Whether Ajit Doval has a successful term as NSA is not as important as the fact that his background in the IPS & IB qualified him rather than social media pontification and gyaani-fication. All this is food for thought for our bloviating bloggers and their impuissant iq-genetics theories. Leadership, Dharmic or otherwise, is necessarily with the politico-strategic  branch.

Last year’s unprovoked attack on Rajiv Malhotra was emblematic of it. Those touting “traditional learning” attempted to take down a hardened and proven strategist like Malhotra, all in the name of ego. Those who don’t correctly understand our Dharma (and who tout nonsense like ‘beef in vedas’ have no right to preach dharma let alone lead it). Until we understand exactly how our dharmic culture feeds into strategic culture, our division of labour will continue to suffer.

Religion and culture give us strength. Veda protects the truth, in fact, Veda is Truth itself (which is why its preservers are so respected). But solutions to strategic problems come from competence, creativity, and courage. It is for this reason that the lead up to and the Mahabharata War itself was essentially a battle of wits between two Kshatriyas, Krishna and Shakuni—who outwitted everyone from Duryodhana to Drona. Shakuni himself embodies the dangers of internal enemies using strategic thinking. And the kaakollukiyam in the Panchatantra is itself emblematic of this lesson.

Whatever your caste, it is this Dharma of Kshatriyas you must follow if you wish to have a role in strategic affairs and governance and political leadership. Every theory, every strategic plan, every battle plan is brilliant, until you make contact with the enemy (or the real world). That is the difference between pseudo-academics spouting off and a leader running a serious organization. So if you are an intellectual, do give advice when asked. But the ultimate decision remains with the strategic command, be it a Kanwar Pal Singh Gill or a Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha Rao.

What then is the proper training ground for the would-be strategist? Surely not digital echo-chambers where one lives in a world of assumptions. Rather it is a track record of countering the adversary through solutions application.  This doesn’t necessitate being a combat veteran, but it does require the development of direct institutional responses to current strategic exigencies. Rather than trollish reaction and reactiveness, it requires measured action and pro-activeness. Rather than brainlessly complaining and yapping after a car like a dog, it’s asking what do you do when you get it? More importantly, it’s wondering “Where is the shatru going next?”

This is where our “Internet Hindus” fail. They focus on daily news-cycle and personal (caste, college, bosom-buddy relationships) rather than working as a professional collaborative team or helping those meeting team needs. Oh sure, if you pay them or put a pistol to their scrawny necks, they will work like the dickens—but what do you do when there is neither carrot nor stick…and only principle? This is the difference between men and mere boys. This the danger of the spoiled brat mentality—it leads to strategic disaster. The Jaichand-Purniah too clever-by-half emotional ahankari-shikandi approach is what destroys civilizations, countries, communities, & families. This is the importance of team sports. You understand how futile it is to win today, but lose tomorrow.

Rather than settling a score, better to protect long-term team interest. And if your caste is your team, you are part of the problem. Garbing caste interest in state interest or national interest may fool the average fool on the street, but not the patient political observer.

In fact, part of the reason why Bharat remains hamstrung in dealing with adversaries is due to the continued and baleful influence of ahankari-shikandi intellectuals who don’t know their place. The King and General are superior to ministers and have no obligation to take their advice—because it is they who have “skin in the game”. Giving gyaan is easy, developing and implementing actionable solutions is hard.

quote_teddy_roosevelt

Just as in the corporate world, it is general management and the Chief Executive that governs an organization, so too in the politico-strategic realm, it is the executive wing that governs policy and that must balance interests between Dharma and Niti. It is the King who rules and the minister who merely advises, not the other way around. It is not for nothing that the great brahmana Pandit Kalhana decried the dushtamatyas who be-deviled Kashmiri kings.

If you are perverting Dharma in the name of “intellectualism”, you are part of the problem

If you are promoting Fraudacharyas and de Nobilis, you are part of the problem

If you operate based on popularity rather than principle, you are part of the problem

If you legitimise Socialist Revolutionaries via history salons, you are part of the problem

The laundry list of commie jnu know-it-alls today who tie themselves in knots, due to all theory and no practice, must recognise that a pound of practice is worth more than a tonne of theory. There is no place for entitlement or sentimentality on the strategic landscape. Professional breast-beaters and assorted ‘absolutist’ rudaalis and “men-of-conscience” aren’t fit for Statecraft let alone strategy. The politico-strategic realm demands mental and emotional discipline backed up by fortitude and courage of Character. It requires both foresight and prudence. Spineless, gutless opportunists, back-biting court eunuchs, and assorted hypocrites are better suited for academia (and remaining there).

Outraging over outrageously outrageous outrage is easy. Providing actual solutions to serious strategic problems is hard.

All things have their place: religion & culture have one & the politico-strategic has another.

But for a strategic culture to properly re-emerge, the current ailments have to be identified:

[Reprint Post] Are We a Serious People?

[Reprint Post] Indians are Talkers not Doers

[Reprint Post] Problem of Indians: Unrepentant Stupidity

[Reprint Post] Origins of Indian Stupidity

[Reprint Post] Culture: The Cure for Stupidity

Then tackled:

What is Needed for a Civilizational Revival?

Rebuilding the National Character

While cooperation with shatrus must become a bad word, collaboration with own countrymen must become a good one. While personality-cults and fanboy-ism must go out of fashion, team loyalty must enter into fashion. While intellect is a good characteristic, character is an even  better one. While knowledge is great, wisdom is even greater. Indians must grow from becoming masters of the small picture to painters of the big one. Vision, execution, and accountability—these are the drivers and definers of leadership.

Vision doesn’t mean fantasy or  day-dreaming or “chooparpavar” bravado or brainless bragging. It means understanding what good government means in the first place and brainstorming solutions and strategy to achieve it. But a vision-less, caste-obsessed, band of clique-tards (pun-intended) can’t provide vision—only the empty braggadocio of those who hate their enemies so much, they become like them. Hate is not a solution, it is stupidity.

Scipio Africanus didn’t hate his enemy, he didn’t hate Hannibal. Scipio admired him so much he became better than him and beat him (even meeting him just before the Battle of Zama). He understood himself and his country, understood his enemy and what made him successful, and hit him where it hurt.

Shivaji-bridge

The same type of practical study was conducted by Shivaji. This doesn’t mean loving your enemies, but it means having a healthy respect for them so you can honestly evaluate them. One must neither be cowed down nor contemptuous of foes as it is as dangerous to over-estimate as it is to under-estimate. Sometimes it necessitates tactical adaptation (as in Vijayanagara and modification favouring of cavalry) and sometimes it needs a complete strategic-reorientation, as in the case of the Maratha Empire. But this isn’t done through history books and textbooks (many of which are falsified) but through training and action. Knowing what to do is easy, understanding how to do it and following through is another matter altogether. Any idiot can sit down and identify needs—do you have the competence, creativity, and courage to meet them? This is the uncomfortable question facing would-be Indic strategists today. Quick fixes and knee-jerk reactions don’t solve problems, nor do untimely power struggles.

Battle of Hakata Bay, 1274

During the Kamakura Shogunate, real power was not held by the Emperor of Japan or even the Shogun, but the shikken. The head of council (regent)  was able to defeat Kublai Khan’s invasion forces at the Battle of Hakata Bay, not merely through the Divine Wind (Kamikaze), but through foresight and prudence. A wise and experienced general, Hojo Masamura, was entrusted with the defence of the Japanese home islands.

The Mongols sent an embassy in 1268 demanding submission, but rather than hew to protocol, Regent Hojo Tokimune and the Council of State simply bought time by refusing to send an answer (a strategem  incidentally used by the Bahmanis against the Musunuri Nayaks and Vijayanagara). A terrifying force was being prepared in 1272 by the Mongols, and all the Kyushu vassals were recalled by the shikken. When the attack finally came in 1274, Japan was ready.  After a hard-fought victory they didn’t bust out the dhol and break into bhangra/lungi dance like so many Indians, but took advantage of the respite to build a stone defensive wall at Hakata Bay. They then levied/drilled more troops in the event of a second attack. Japan’s vigilance did not slacken even after victory! For that reason, they were even better prepared in 1281, and won again against an even more terrifying 140,000. Even then, the expensive bakufu defences were maintained for another 20 years.

They studied the enemy, bought time, prepared their ground, and acted when opportunity presented itself, rather than engaging in pompous chest thumping or loudmouth rhetoric. The Hojo regency knew it faced a dangerous enemy, and even after winning two wars over the Mongols, preparation and vigilance continued for 20 years (no matter the expense). That is the difference between strategery and strategy, navel-gazing and serious preparation. Are we a Serious People?

Vkkmenonfaintun.
V.K.Krishna Menon after delivering a “brilliant” 8 hour UN speech

Security of state or civilization belongs in the hands of serious people. Not navel-gazing pseudo-intellectuals, nor spelling bee poodles, but serious thinkers whose ability is proven by practice (unlike Nehru who appointed the incompetent Brij Mohan Kaul due to nepotism and the even more incompetent V.K.Krishna Menon due to ideology). Terrifying problems require experienced, competent people who inspire others rather than merely coast on (alleged) pedigree. Learning must be balanced by training/application, and in matters of war, by training in arms and tactics.  This works the other way too. Centuries after Hakata Bay, Tokugawa Ieyasu issued ordinances known as buje sho-hatto, where samurai were required to give themselves both to the art of war as well as to the pursuit of ‘polite learning’.  This is what is lacking today.

Absence of emotional-discipline leads to team indiscipline.Ego-maniacs, forever obsessed with proving their intellectual superiority, or that of their family or caste or region stupidly risk the safety of what they care about the most due to their own ambition.

The recent hullabaloo of halfwits over the “national language” is emblematic of another set of genetic dead-ends. “Youth aspiration for english”, “it is not the language, but the imposition!”, and my personal favourite,”no need for link language”.

No need for link language??! What else could better reflect the attitude of court eunuchs and pseudo-intellectual vidusaka-samalochakas than to ignore the national need to issue orders to the national army on the nation’s battlefields? Are jawans from rural areas supposed to use universal translators? Surely state languages should be the language of state administration, but a central administrative language is needed, for simple governmental practicality. It is this lack of pragmatism among all-theory no practice pinheads that continues to perpetuate a 70 year old debate.

There may be a case for Hindi as National Language, but even if there isn’t (and Sanskrit should replace it), surely Shuddh Hindi has a case as Central Administrative Language, out of sheer pragmatism. Anglicised elites promote English to retain their elite privileges. Global lingua francas change given global zeitgeists, as demonstrated by the phrase itself. French was once the “global language”, or at least the European language of communication. Today it is English, and tomorrow it very well could be Mandarin. Are Indians expecting to switch their national administrative language based on global fashion? Can our people be any more idiotic?

That this debate reached a fever pitch (at least on social media) at the exact time China was making war noises at the border, show exactly how immature and unserious our people are.

Is ego worth risking the lives and well-being of one’s children or womenfolk? This is the question our gasbag gyaanis need to start asking themselves. Their emotional indiscipline and mind-boggling moronery in the face of the gravest of threats hardens even the softest of hearts. Preferring slogan to prudence and ambition to accomplishment, even the most Nippon-esque of fanbois forgets that the word samurai actually means ‘one who serves’.

This is the attitude that is required. One of service in the state, national, civilizational, and dharmic interest. Realpolitik is not rhetoric or tough talk. Can a bunch of clowns prioritising their position and social media celebrity have the manhood to actual defend their families, or do what it takes to ensure their defence? This is the problem today. Tough talk over tangible strategic action, fan clubs over professionalism, machine gun bursts of buffoonery over calm/measured behaviour, individual last minute heroics over collaborative collective strategy. Armchair chanakyas can clip all the books they want, but if they wish to master Koota Niti, they must first understand and practice the basics.

Those who wish to command, must first learn to obey

Literature: Paaka Darpana

Continuing Food Week here on the Indic Civilizational Portal is a work of Literature mentioned in our preceding Post on Classical Indic Cuisine.

The Paaka Darpana of King Nala of the Nishadas is the oldest available text on Indian Cookery.  Although we already conducted a brief expository on it, it’s important to—pardon the pun—flesh out the details of this little known composition.

Any mention of Culinary Literature is incomplete without discussion of the Paaka Darpana. Meaning ‘Culinary Mirror’, it is an ancient work with modern applications. It helps us understand not only what unites Indian cooking—real Indian cooking—from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, but also gives insight into what many Ancient Bharatiyas actually ate.

Author

The legendary lord of the Nishaadas, Nala is a famed hero mentioned in the Mahabharata as the other half of that Pauranic Power Couple Nala & Damayanti.

It is said that he was extremely good looking, truthful, brave, just and endowed with eight boons. [1]

Nevertheless, as is famously recounted in the Naisadheeya or Naisadha Charita of Sriharsa , Nala (like another famous Mahabharata character) was not good at dice. He lost his kingdom in a wager with his brother Pushkara, and he too had to go into exile. It was in these circumstances that he became a chef in the Royal Kitchen of Rtuparna, King of Ayodhya. To preserve his real identity, Nala took the name Bahuka, and explained the Art of Cuisine to Rtuparna.

Interestingly enough, Nala later mentions his name in the Paaka Darpana and describes his travails. Damayanti is also discussed as is her later svayamvara.

King Nala himself is a member of the Nishada tribe. While the tale he is best known for is for another time, some of the slokas in this work give us insight into not only his surface-qualities, but also his substantive ones as well.

The king (Rtuparna), addressing Nala, asked him many questions regard-ing the dietics and regimens to be observed in various seasons. He puts forth many epithets to Nala…O, supreme one amongst the expert cooks having parexcellence knowl-edge of the science of cookery, authority of science of cooking, all round expert of sorts, of cooking procedures, O observer of auster-ity, O, proficient O, personified lion among the elepha[nts]. O, Baahuka (Nala), kindly exhibit the procedure of consumable articles, beneficial to everybody, to be taken in various seasons.” [1, 79]

The traditional seasons per the Indic Science of Time-Keeping are “the seasons of spring (Vasanta), summer (greeshma), early rains (praavrt), rains (vaarshikaa), autumn (saarad) and winter (hemanta) are observed in fore-noon (purvaahna), midnoon (madhyaahna), afternoon (aparaahna), evening (pradosha), midnight (ardharaatra) and dawn (pratyushas) respectively.” [1, 79] It’s clear the great Nala of the Nishaadas has a solution for every season.

Whatever your tastes, however, it’s quite clear what he had in mind for good food was the Royal Rajbhog and all the intricacies of its preparation. However, the composition itself explicates the breadth of his knowledge more than any would-be biographer could do.

Composition

Credited to Nala of Nishada rajya, Paaka Darpana is a Sanskrit work. It contains 761 slokas and is divided into 11 chapters.

In this wo[]nderful book the author has described the recipes of vegetable & non-veg. preparations. Dishes prepared from Neem, Mandan, Guduchi, Jackfruit etc. become cures also besides being very tasty, the dishes are made fragrant before being served.[2,1]

A manuscript exists at the Saraswati Bhavan Library of Sampurnanand Sanskrit University at Varanasi.

  • Chapter 1: By far the longest chapter (half the work), it introduces the topic and deals with the five key categories of food: pulses, rice, and meat.
  • Chapter 2: Discusses the various seasons and the food regimens to be observed. The influence of Ayurveda is obvious here.
  • Chapter 3: Treats the item of Bhaksyaraaja and various other dishes containing Egg
  • Chapter 4: Focused on Phirni (kheer). Interestingly, different varieties of Paayasa are mentioned, as well as syrups such as Paanaka (Sri Rama‘s favourite).
  • Chapter 5: Surveys the process pertaining to the preparation of different varieties of soft beverage, particularly their storage.
  • Chapter 6: Presents the various processes and properties of different soups (yoosa)
  • Chapter 7: Discusses the aspects of various Ghee preparations (Ghrtannapaaka) & Cereals.
  • Chapter 8: Lehya (lickable) foods, such as the mango, are mentioned
  • Chapter 9: Surveys the process of cooling water, giving fragrance, and preparing delicacies
  • Chapter 10: Ksheera-paaka, or general cooking of mixed dish milk preparations
  • Chapter 11: The last chapter overviews the processes of creating curd from milk

As a matter of interest, the original manuscript does not have these 11 paricchedas, and was found as one continuous composition (without punctuation).

Nala describes the various qualities of a cook (sooda ) and expert chef (soodaraat), which the reader can review among the selections. Nevertheless, the Nishaada king also describes the qualities of a proper waiter. Here is the gist below:

The waiter-at-meals (parivesaka) should attend to ablu-tions…followed by cleanliness of the feet and hands. He should be a fulfiller of culinary desires, attentitive to mind, firm/adherent, familiar with the timing of the meals of the king. Thereafter, he should serve the meals and food-prepara-tion in set order having come to know the appropriate time set for a king and considering its wholesomeness. [1,9]

The importance of cleanliness is quite apparent from the outset. Uniquely the cleanliness specified is not only a physical one, but a mental and even spiritual one. While the feasibility of ensuring such a level of saucha may indeed stretch credulity in our era, the emphasis on hygiene should, nonetheless, be feted and emulated. Whether chef or waiter or sommelier, one who furnishes food for others should take care to honour their trust.  There is an implied guarantee of cleanliness.

In the same chapter, Nala also outlines the work in slokas 28-32, albeit in greater detail than the list at the top:

The first section of the treatise deals with boiled rice (odana) with its various preparations; second one appraises the variet-ies of pulse (soopa); third one describes the clarified butter (sarpis); fourth one presents various varieties of recipes (vyanjana); fifth one depicts several preparations of meat (maamsa) and vegetables (shaaka); sixth one narrates a number of preparations of semi-hard food (bhakshya); seventh one introduces the preparations of Paayasa (rice cooked in milk with sugar added to it); eighth one elucidates an elixir (rasaayana); ninth one describes the preparation of syrup (paana) with its varieties; tenth one considers the varieties of soup (yoosa); eleventh one contemplates the food and its varieties processed by clarified but-ter; twelfth one exhibits the lickable (lehya) articles with its varieties; thirteenth one focuses the various beverages (paaneeya); thirteenth con-fines to several preparation of milk (ksheera); fifteenth one puts forth various preparation of curd (dadhi) and the last sixteenth one states the various preparations of butter-milk (takra).” [1,9]

Thus, one can see from this exegesis an inclusion of not only common staples such as rice, supplemented by vegetables, but also different types of meat.

Meat Recipes

Meat (maamsa) is reviewed with precision, particularly with regard to preparation and cleaning. Many different exotic meats are also discussed (it is not known if Nala’s tribal background influenced the selection). These range from curries to rice dishes. The most important however is referred to as simply maamsodana.

Preparation process of Maamsodana (Pulaava)—The cook skilled in processing should fill up the 3/4 part of the cauldron (Sthaali) by the water hereafter it should be kept on fire place (stove or chulha). When water becomes heated the well-washed rice should be dropped in the quantity of one fourth of the [vessel]. When the Sali rice becomes semi-cooked, meat either, completely cooked or semi-cooked in the form of minute pieces alike rice should be mixed along with salt. This cooked rice should be fired with clarified ghee. After disappearance of watery residue, it should be put on the coalfire (Angar). Afterwards the coconut water and new ghee should also b[e] mixed and should be scented with the flower of screw pine (Ketaki). Hereafter the pieces of Parpata should be dropped and it should be made scented through the product of Camphor and Musk (Kastooree).” [1,22]

A rice dish known as chitrapaaka is discussed, and a full recipe given (sl.86). It is to be prepared in a special non-metal vessel known as Pugapada. It is mixed with salt, musk and ketaki flower, camphor, saffron and water. Lemon, mushroom, coriander, ringer and onion are also to be included. Option of adding meat after all this is prepared exists as well.

There are many, many other recipes including those for kukkutamaamsatailodana (chicken pulao with asafoetida, sl.100), sooksmaamsoddana (minced chicken pulao, sl.103), etc.

As such, many of the items he mentions are not only non-traditional to modern Hindus, but also notable for lacking any dishes with cow meat. Thus, even a tribal king with even fewer restrictions than so called “savarna” Kshatriyas, did not advocate beef.  Therefore, we can see an integral unity in this myriad diversity.

The cow remains sacred for all Dharmic peoples.

Slokas 341-344 also discuss different spices. It appears the addition of ginger and garlic is nothing new to Indian cookery, as there is clear mention of it here.  But shakaharis and sattvik chefs need not fear. There are also a number of vegetarian main courses mentioned as well.

Vegetarian Recipes

Preparation of pulses is discussed in great detail with the mixing of turmeric and asafoetida. Different types of pulses are also described such as horse-gram (kulattha), black-gram (masa), flat bean (nispava) in sl.121. Pulse itself is described as an alleviator of pitta and a promoter of health [1, 27]. Thus, we again see the background influence of Ayurveda here.

Shigruphalam (drum-stick), plantain (kadhalee), audambara (Indian fig), tiktaalaabu (bitter gourd),  are all vegetarian options and their dishes all discussed as well. For sake of familiarity, a recipe for a brinjal (vrnthaakam) dish will be described here:

Method of preparing the vegetable of Brinzal and its properties. The lovely young fruit of brinzal should be taken and its upper portion should be cut by a sharp-edged knife. After cutting the brinzal into two parts, it should be dropped into a pot filled with water. The round brinzal fruit should be cleansed by the water and it should be dipped into the water medicated with ginger. It should be mixed with asafoetida, Kaayaphala (Kaidarya) and coriander powder. It should be added  by the pieces of garlic and ginger and it should be kept on fire. The round brinzal fruit cut into pieces should be kept in hot water for a while and it should be brought out of the water. After making the paste of spices containing black pepper coriander, cumin seeds (jeera) mixed with ripe tamarind and curd should be pasted on the pieces of brinzal fruit and it should be fried in cow’s ghee (clarified butter). After taking it out, it should be made fragrant with the camphor. Hereafter it should be kept in clean pipe of puga-putta boiling ghee. After taking out it should be eaten.” [1, 38] It is praised as “an alleviator of Tridosha” and an enhancer of strength. [1, 38]

But the best of all vegetarian dishes is described as Bhakshyaraaja, King of the Edibles:

The cook should take on part of the pieces of raw wheat along with the one part of fragrant article in order to cook it properly. The well cooked pulse of Bengal gram (canaka) taken as half part and one part of fat and one part of the flat bean (Nispaava) along with the five pieces of co[co]nut, fruit mixed with cardamom (elaa) and salt in appropriate quantity. All the above substances should be cooked properly and the butter ex-tracted from the scented milk should be mixed in boiled milk. after mixing all these, the pills should be prepared like seeds of lemon and these should be kept in pugapatta. These pills, after some time should be again cooked and dropped in the ghee. This preparation is called Bhakshyaraaja.” “It is celebrated as an alleviator of vaata and pitta, promoter of digestive power, palatable, and a strength promoter.” [1, 86]

In terms of vegetarian items of regional interest, Odias would be interested to hear about the preparation of the Kalinga fruit (sl. 444). Kashmiris might relish the description of Lotus flower, Padma-patra-shaaka (sl.477), as a dish.

Rasa & Ayurveda

The editor’s note gives a detailed discussion of rasabhinivritti (Manifestation of taste) and expounds  on how “Location (desa) plays a great role in manifestation of various tastes in one substance, e.g.grapes and pomegranates growing in the Himaalayas are sweet in taste whereas those growing elsewhere are sour“. [1, 11] Taste which manifests immediately is referred to as rasa, while that which manifests later and slightly is called anurasa.  Nala himself specifically mentions 8 demerits in food, along with various characteristics of starch.

Medicinal aspects are also discussed, such as how to alleviate pain from a scorpion-sting. This circles back to the overall connection to Ayurveda. Although naturally Nala being not just an ordinary cook, but a royal chef is expected to be mindful of taste, the centrality of nutrition and health is apparent. Incidentally, seasonal regimes (for purposes of health) are avidly described in chapter 2. Special care is taken to assert the need for more caution during the changing of seasons.

Nala himself recommends certain meats in certain seasons, suggesting deer in spring, goat in summer, chicken in rainy season, fish in autumn, pork in winter, and sparrow in late winter (sl.31).

Of course, no discussion of the composition would be complete without mention of the desserts. While foreign attribution of all things Indian may be popular (even phirni!), here is King Nala’s recipe for Kheer, better known as Ksheerapaaka.

Milk, unmixed with water, should be kept in a milk vessel. it should be cooked in slow heat in cauldron and stirred with ladle…Milk which has become drinkable is to be added by the jack-fruit. in the milk, which has become more solidified, the ginger should be added by another fruit. Later on the flowers of Punnaga should also be added to it. the milk known as ghatika is to be added by the mango fruit along with ghee and honey. In this way, the flower of pomegranate and rice should be added, when the milk becomes in ‘Sarkara’ form, banana fruit is to be added along with sugar.” [1,109] It is described as glorified by the Gods and alleviates the disorders of Tridosha.

Selections

Ekaaki naishadhah kadaachit kalinaashanah |

Rtuparnasya nagaree raajaanamidhamabraveet || sl.1

Long ago, having reached the city (Ayodhyaa) of Rtuparna, Naisadha (king of Nisadha county as Nala) the persecutor of Kali (the demon who rules in Kali Yuga) alone spoke thus to the king. [1,1]

§

(Panchavidha bhojanasya bhedhaah) Bhakshyam bhojyam tatha lehyanchoshyam peyam payogatham |

Bhedham rasaanaam shannaancha shuddha-samskaara-bhedhathah | sl.4

(I know the food-stuff classified into five categories viz., bhakshya [semihard food like sweet-ball (laddu) etc.] bhojya (soft food like rice, pulse etc.), lehya (relishable or lickable articles like sauce), cosva (suckable articles like sugarcane, pomegranate etc.) and peya (drinkables or beverages like fruit-juice, wines etc.) possessing either the six tastes (sweet, sour, salt, bitter, pungent and astringent) on the basis of preparation and processing. [1,2]

§

“Bhujyathe yena yatnena tasyaarogyam bhaved bhruvam |

vaatajam pittajam rogam sleshmajam hanthi sarvadaa ||

Sakrunnishevanenaiva tripuram tryambako yathaa || sl.6

Person, who relishes the aforesaid dishes (citrapaaka) with care and prepared by me, gets positive sound health. If this preparation is taken even once, alleviates the diseases caused by Vaata, Pitta and Sleshman as Lord Siva (Tryambaka) had killed the demon Tripura.” [1,3]

§

Asminnaarthe mayo’kaari grantho leka hithaaya cha|

loka paala-prasaadena paakadarpanaaamathah||

Tasyaava-lokanenaiva drsyanthe vividhaah kriyaah |

Soodasya lakshanam thaavad vakshye samkshepatha prabho || sl.22

O lord (prabhu) king Rtuparna. I have composed a trea-tise entitled Paakadarpana in this regard by the grace of gods (lokapaalas) for the benefit of people. All the process of (cooking) would be conspicuous by going through it. Now, I shall narrate the characteristics of cook (sooda) succinctly).

§

Svadesamsabhavah prajnha sarva-lakshana-laksithah |

Sadaachaara-samaayuktho visishta-kulasambhavah ||

Shaantho daantho daanasheelo raajapoojyo shuchismathah|

svadaaraniratha shuddhah paradaaravivarjithah ||

Bhitha-bhaashee sadaa daathaa dayaaluscha subhasitah |

Dhaathujno desakaalajno vayo’vasthaadhividh budhah||

The cook (soodha) appointed in a particular place, must belong to that habitat. He should be intellectual, endowed with all the required merits and characteristics, possessing the moral and ethical values, hailing from a respectable family, qu[iet], subdued, generous, honored by the royal families, pious, smiling, devoted to his wife, averted from other’s wife, holy, speaking measured words, liberal, com-passionate, soft spoken, familiar with various metalic utensils, conversant with place and seasons and detector of age and phases of life and also wise. [1,8]

Image result for paka darpana nala

§

Sarveshaam praaninaam praanam-annam prathama-muchyathe |

Brahma-roopamidham samyak-trishashti-rasa-roopakam ||

Doshashtakena rahithamaahared-annam-uttamam || sl.37

Food is primarily said as sustainer of vital force (Praana) of all living beings. Food, containing the sixtythree types (on the basis of combinations and permutations) of rasa (tastes) is factually personi-fied as Brahma (creator of the universe). The best food is that which is devoid of eight types of impurities. [1, 10]

§

Soodha-vedamakhilam susooksmayaa savidaa samavalokya sarvathah|

paaka-roopam-abhidheya-maa-daraadhyo bibarthim hrdhayena soodhaaraat || sl.498

Attainment of the post of expert cook. The best cook is one, who, having gone through cookery very attentively and pre-cisely from all the aspects; possesses the knowledge of all sorts of cooking by heart. He is also known as the king of the cooks. [1,78]

§

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References:
  1. Madhulika, Dr. & Ed. Jayaram Yadav. Paka Darpana. Varanasi: Chaukhambha Orientalia. 2013

Why Gentlemen Matter

How regressive!”, they may say. “MGTOW!” they will retort. “Tactic to guilt women into becoming Ladies!”, they might argue. Yes, even the last one is true courtesy feminists in our topsy turvy age. But the reality is, whatever radfem activists argue, whatever redpill [do]tards retort, and whatever post-modern popinjays might protest, for a civilised society, Gentlemen not only Matter but are, in fact, Foundational.

Pickup/Seduction artists may protest that “nice guys finish last” and “girls like bad boys”—and incidentally, I’m not actually contesting your point. But the problem is, you’re not asking why it might be true. The reason why nice guys finish last & many (not all) girls like bad boys is because when most people lead boring lives, it’s natural to want a little excitement, even if it is stupid or even dangerous. But none of this means a gentleman has to be boring. None of this means a gentleman can’t deliver a good ass-kicking to bad boys. And none of this means a gentleman can’t be popular with the ladies as well.

Mera rath par tumhara swagat hai, Rajkumari

And this is precisely the problem. Most young men forget that in a world dominated by bad boys, the Niti of Krishna is required. The attitude of bad boys (most of whom are usually cowards with attitude) is  misconstrued as confidence and strength and excitement. That’s why nice guys finish last. If you still look like your mummy picks your outfits, why would any girl want you?

But this is the conundrum, the false dichotomy if you will, in a long line of confused bipolarity facing modern society. Boring Nice guy vs Bad boy, Libertinism vs Slavery, Communism vs Capitalism, and of course, that all time classic, Virgin vs Whore. The Madonna-Magdalene dichotomy is one of the most injurious to civilised society, and yes, even one that prizes chastity. Simply because a woman is not “Mary-mother-of Jesus” or Sita Devi, does not mean it is “open season”.

I have used these two examples because contrary to attempts by Western Academia and Mainstream Media, it is not just Indian society that faces an issue with exploitation of women. In fact it is far, far worse in the Developed World , East Asia, and the Middle East. The difference is, unlike “Modern/Secular/Capitalist” India, Traditional Ancient Dharmic India emphasised the dignity of a woman, no matter who she was. And there were brutal consequences for men who tried to violate it (Google: Dushasana).

As is now well known, Kalidasa‘s Raghuvamsa described how safe the city of Ayodhya was for women:

Yasmin maheem shaasathi vaaneenaam nidhraam vihaaraardhapathe gathaanaam |

vaatho’pi naasraam-sayada-sukaani ko lambayed aaharanaaya hastham || (S. 6,sl.75)

 

While he [Dilipa ancestor of Rama] was ruler of the earth, even the very breeze dared not disturb the skirts of drunken women who sank to sleep on the road when half-way they had strayed to the place of enjoyment; far less dared any one to extend his hand for theft. [1,115]

We are of course a long ways away from Ram Raj, and modern India has its issues. But Crime occurs in any society, and statistics demonstrate that.

Why is only India targeted via “India’s Daughter” and other such politically-motivated documentaries? After all, all is not healthy in the infallible West. What of this culture?

This is the danger of racial stereotyping and negative imaging. Narratives are invented and individuals are judged on the basis of pre-conceived notions (usually by the ignorant). Unlike the intellectually dishonest doyennes of the Western Ivory Tower, we won’t stereotype this as emblematic of Western culture,  despite the historically confirmed misogynist reputation of a certain “Universal” Institution that happens to be the world’s oldest bureaucracy. The fact is, there is an even deeper sickness, and that is called post-modernity.

If Post-Modern Society is a Bastard Society, is it any wonder there are few gentlemen anymore, in any part of the world? Yes, much like boys complain, nice guys are finishing last (so women do have some part of the blame), but the time has come to put an end to the Virgin-Whore dichotomy. This is damaging not only to the vast majority  of women who are in the middle (just like the vast majority of men), but is damaging to society as well, as it degrades the dignity of all women.

Sita Mata once asserted the unfairness of all women being judged by the behaviour of a few vulgar women. And this is true. That is the reason why we split character into three parts.

Character is 3 parts:

1.Moral Character (living according to Moral Standards, religious, sexual, etc)

2.Personal Integrity (holding true to your obligations, beliefs, and promises)

3.Ethical Civility (treating other with respect and acting for societal good)

If we ask how many men have what it takes to be Ram, isn’t the corollary how many women have what it takes to be Sita?

Contrary to absinthe-addicted activists, if you have no loyalty to your own society “because patriarchy!”, don’t expect to not be civilly criticised for your ridiculous views. And for those ritualistic  twenty something twits on twitter who say “We are not Sri Rama to treat Surpanakha with respect”—well dear ritualistic twenty something twit on twitter, then don’t expect to marry a woman who is like Sita either. Whether you believe in probability or divinity, we get in life (generally) what we ourselves deserve.

As such, whether it is the reprehensible behaviour of members of that so called “Secular” Political Party AAP, or the corporate culture of that American Jewelry corporation, one can see how the absence of gentlemen creates conditions for the exploitation of women—whatever the rule of law.

Bad boys are “bad” for a reason, ladies. No matter how they look, no matter what they say, what’s important is how they see…you.  But these scenarios also show that it is not a simple matter of a “chaste religious girl” vs “office floozy”. If most men are of middling character, so too are most women. And as we illustrated, character is more than just moral character, it is also strength of belief and willingness to endure (even in the face of hardship or authority).

DharmaMandir

This is the importance of Sabhyata, Saujanya, & Maryada. All of these are an integral part of Nara Dharma. It is also why Bhagvan Ram was called Maryada Purushottam. It didn’t matter whether it she was Sita or Surpanakha, Rama treated all women with respect. It is only when Surpanakha threatened to kill Sita that Rama had Lakshmana punish her.

A man behaves like a gentleman not because of what it says about her, but because of what it says about him.

The American jewelry store chain had many more women whose maternal or economic or office hierarchical cares kicked in allowing their vulnerability to be exploited by bad men. There was probably a small percentage of vulgar women who were delighted to go along with the advances of men—but even if it was as much as 33%, that means still 67% didn’t want to and were pressured by these American men who should have treated their colleagues and employees with respect. Some may say  the middling 33% submitted to this pressure probably just found an excuse—but to that, the answer iswho’s to say?. Do you have student loan debt you can’t pay if you lose your job? Do you have a parent whose life depends on expensive medical care? Are you a single mother with a child to feed?

That last one Should sound familiar.

 

Most guys may say “Really? Problem solved, and I get sex too?” and most social contract sybarites may attest “It is simply a transaction resulting mutual gain“, but then society doesn’t judge men and women the same way in matters of sex, so neither  judgmental men nor their feminist/objectivist analogues have it right. Others may then argue “well, there were women who resist even that pressure”—and to that I say yes. There were women who resisted and there are women who resist. But both women and men are subject to blackmail, it’s just that they are usually blackmailed for different things. The women and men of highest character resist blackmail even in the face of dire circumstances, but also in the case of authority.

The story of Ahalya is illustrative here:

Most people believe that Ahalya was fooled by Indra into thinking he was her husband Gautama, and that is why she had physical relations with him. But as the Valmiki Ramayana itself confirms, Ahalya  was in fact very clever, and was intelligent enough to realize it wasn’t her husband. So why then did she agree? Well, most men have a ready answer and claim all women are like this when they get the chance. But that is not actually the case. Ahalya agreed to the tryst because in her respect for authority she believed a Brahmin or King or King of the Gods could not be disobeyed. But this of course is not Dharma, as we know Ravana who was a brahmin & a king & defeated the King of the Gods, was rightly refused. Authority, whether that of a brahmin, a king, or deva cannot be misused to exploit a person. And as both Indra and Ravana found out, they too would have to be punished and suffer the consequences, whatever their status or position.

That is also why Ahalya was cursed to turn into a stone. Just because in her delicateness woman may be more amenable to authority is no excuse to engage in immorality. She may be delicate like a flower or vine, but when faced with immorality and evil, woman must also be able to turn into a stone—and the men who would devilishly exploit them, must get hit by one.

That is why in the case of Sita we see that she not only turned into a stone (metaphorically speaking), but over the course of a year of torment, seduction attempts, pleading, and threats by Ravana,  she became a veritable diamond. That is why both she and her only love, Rama, were described as follows:

Vajradapi katorani mrudooni kusumadapi |

Lokotharaanaam chetaamsi ko nu vigyathu marhaati ||

Harder than a diamond and softer than a flower

Who can gauge the conduct of super-eminent persons?

It is this middle endurance that is lacking in both women AND men today, whether it is morality-obsessed Indian society or decency driven American society.

It is the courage of conviction that allows you to keep your character, even in difficult circumstances. And it is also the absence of gentlemen to intervene when the law fails or even a culture collapses, that creates bastards and the cycle of bastardy.

But as we’ve emphasized, contrary to what MSM, Cultural Anthropologists, and Native informants tell you, this problem is not specific to a specific culture, but as we’ve seen and will see now, an issue that all societies face when they become decadent or immoral.

“The Rape of Lucretia” is a famous episode from Italian History. It is all the more illustrative because the son of the Roman King Tarquinius Superbus threatened her that if she resisted, he would lie and tell everyone she willingly slept with a slave. The bad boys of today of course are even worse because unlike young Tarquin, they would have lied anyway. Nevertheless, it was the rape of Lucretia that caused Roman society to raise arms against the oppression of the Tyrannical Tarquins, and under Lucius Junius Brutus, established the Roman Republic. But the issue here is not the form of government, or even the specific culture, but the state of moral culture in society, especially in its elites.

And for those “human rights activists” who only seem to have Indian culture in their sights with regard to women and misogyny and Agni Pareeksha, tell me again which civilization produced this celebrated figure who said this:

Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion”.

This is the problem with double standards and selective application. Justice for my friends and the full extent of the law for my enemies may be the rule that “exceptionalists” live by (and a concept which sentimental protocol droids have yet to learn), but the essential aspect that all parties are forgetting, is the justice part.

Justice stands against exploitation.

That is why Gentlemen matter. Because whatever the law says, whatever your friend says, whatever Ayn Rand says, the gentleman is concerned about justice in any given situation. That is the value of udhaarabhaava (character) and Sujanah-bhaava (gentlemanliness). That is why Swami Vivekananda said clothes don’t make a gentleman, character makes a gentleman. And it is character that is precisely not being emphasised today.

This is the case whether it is ritual-obsessed India or PC-obsessed America. Morality matters, and Decency matters, but it is Character that ultimately makes both possible. That is why Rule of Justice that matters more than Rule of Law. That is why the Rule of Dharma must be restored.

When law and order breaks down, when a culture collapses, when the vulnerable are unprotected, forces of criminality don’t think of responsibility, but rather, think of opportunity.

That is why force requires counter-force. That is why gentlemen matter. Because whether it is in a corporation or in a political party or at a social party, rather than opportunity, gentlemen see responsibility.


References:

  1. Devadhar, C.R. Works of Kalidasa.Vol.11: Poetry. Delhi: MLBD.2010
  2. Kale, M.R.The Uttararamacarita of Bhavabhuti. Delhi: MLBD.2010
  3. http://sanskritdocuments.org/sites/giirvaani/giirvaani/rv/sargas/06_rv.htm

 

The Civilizational Resonance of Baahubali

A version of this Post was published at Andhra Cultural Portal, on July 22, 2015


Baahubali

Much water has flowed down the waterfall south of Mahishmati since we last touched on this topic. Those of you following us on Andhra Cultural Portal would have read our Post 2 years ago when Baahubali-The Beginning was released. Well, unless you were living in one of those caves featured in the film, you would not only be familiar with this phenomenon, but also would have watched it…several times.

And make no mistake, this Andhra movies is not just a national or global phenomenon, but especially a civilizational one for all members of Indic Civilization. It is not for nothing this Telugu language movie was a hit in Nepal. Part 2’s distribution rights have already sold for 3 crores in Prithvi Narayan Sah‘s Hindu Rajya.

You would also have heard the new trailer was one of the fastest to garner 100 million views on YouTube. Wondering why? — see for yourself!

So in honour of Srisaila Sri Rajamouli’s digital age epic’s second installment, Baahubali 2-The Conclusion, we give a reprint of our review of Part 1. Enjoy. Watch the movie. And above all…

Jai Mahishmati!


The scores are in, the box office has reported, and the people have spoken: Baahubali-The Beginning is a box office behemoth. S.S. Rajamouli’s smash hit is truly a magnum opus that has swept all of India, South and North of the Vindhya. Indeed, much ink has already marked the proverbial paper, and a number of columns, cookie cutter top tens, and well-penned essays have made their mark. What’s more, long derided regional Telugu cinema is no longer seen as merely a source for remakes, but as even foreigners note, is a source of jealousy for Bollywood insiders. As Krishnarjun gaaru has written, the industry itself has the potential to go back to its golden age 3-5 decades ago, with classics such as Maya Bazaar and Missamma.

Nevertheless, while ACP typically analyzes movies long after the glitz and glamour of a premiere has passed, there is something special about this film that has come to underscore the present zeitgeist. As such, this post is not our standard cinematic analysis, or a fine study of symbology, or even a well-crafted commentary on the industry’s future. Rather it is about understanding the cultural resonance of Baahubali and why it’s relevant and indeed a revelation at this place and at this time. We have sought to do this with ** No Spoilers** for those of you who have yet to see it.

First, a Rejoinder

Despite all the acclaim— not only in the Telugu rashtras or even just Bharata desa, but also globally—sour grapes from the standard set has been increasing from dribble to a deluge. The bitter wine they swill is in the hopes of poisoning the popular opinion. As such, a rejoinder is in order.

Almost two weeks in, the knives are now out courtesy the usual suspects: “Idea of India” indoctrinues (copyright pending for portmanteau), Dubai-gang ghulams of bollywood, and assorted sordid-sickulars of all sorts are now slashing at this movie, after a proverbial puissant punch to the solar plexus. Gasping for breath, these pill-popping, phillim-hopping philistines have the gall to tear down this movie by hook or by crook. The “un-original” charges (Tarzan this, Lord of the Rings that) are particularly asinine, especially coming from bollywood. After all, Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay drew from Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, which drew from John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven, which ultimately drew from Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. It’s invariable that inspiration here and there may come from different sources–the question is breathing new life, new vision, and new context into them, and weaving them into a unique piece. Baahubali has accomplished this to the shame of Bollywood.

As these intellectual imps impotently shriek and wailed “animal film!”, “symbolic molestation!”, “misogyny!”, they tried every trick in the book, first saying they “don’t review south movies”—but hey check out this no name flick from our sworn enemy), then they ridiculed looks  or even the very idea of a big hit “from south”, finally they began throwing mud through specious Freudian analyses and crackpot conclusions about tribal relations. In short:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

Setting aside their ignorance about the Kalakeyas in the Mahabharata (yet another example of what happens when you don’t know your own epics), the question isn’t whether Bharatvarsha, the land of Rama’s friend Guha, Pratap’s friends among the Bhils, or Rani Durgavati’s own in-laws, treated its tribals well, but what happened to the tribes of Europe? Bharat respected the tribal way of life, and even saw its merits by encouraging vana prastha (forest life) for retired kings and other elites.

In any event, the body blow from Baahubali had left them in a week-long stupor that they are only now gurgling back from. Left with little other than Bajrangi Bhaijan to salve their wounds, they have united around this flick touting everything from “sentiment & emotion!” to “profitability” (a.k.a. the Sonam Kapoor defence)—poor dears. And yet, why this movie and why such mendacity? After all, Magadheera showed a native Bharatiya kingdom in a complimentary fashion. It too balanced CGI and Story with dramatic action and theatric performances. Those who point to a display of Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) in positive light, forget the Kala Bhairava Statue that served as the sentinel of cinematic climax. No, the reason why Bahubaali-The Beginning, this movie, at this time, has stirred up a hornet’s nest of hate, is because it is true cinematic splendour celebrating Dharma.

Despite the laughable claims about Bajrangi Bhaijan touting an emotive ideal, while Baahubali did not, it’s quite clear that this movie was refulgent with an ideal. Dharma, in all its myriad forms, in all its numerous nuances, is immanent throughout this Sistine chapel in celluloid. And unlike that metaphor, the fact that Rajamouli’s Masterpiece drew on native Indic forms (architecture harkens to Angkor, Amaravati, and Avanti) , native Indic fashion (Tamannah’s transformative couture is more the ancient standard), Indic names (Avantika, Baahubali), Indic Sacred History (Rishabhadeva’s sons are an overarching influence), and Indic Geography (Mahismati was the capital of Kartaveerya Arjuna), only roiled our stealth regressive royyalu (that’s Telugu for “shrimp”, btw) further. That it was able to do this by bringing Bharatiyas of all panths (religions) in to enjoy the ride and make them feel a part of the experience, was the last straw.

Dharmic Culture

baahubalivisual

In a way, it’s almost poetic that a movie so redolent in Dharma Culture was distributed and promoted by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions. Though obviously written, produced, directed, and lead acted by Telugus, this multi-starrer provided a tale and experience to which all Bharatiyas could relate.

We saw a dharmic society in action. From artistry and architecture to the traditional sastras and functioning of statecraft, it was an image of an India that once was. True, it was balanced by elements of fantasy and drew directly from the Puranas, via the Kalakeyas. But we also a saw a version of how our ancestors lived and the principles that drove them: patriotism, loyalty, self-sacrifice, motherhood, love, and above all Dharma.

What’s more, it was an image of not just how the elites might have lived, but the commoners as well.  We see how villagers and elites coexisted honorably. Albeit underneath a fantastic and fantastical waterfall, it was a portrait nonetheless of the idylls of rural and even forest life. It too was replete with Dharma—not the philosophical or intellectual dharma, but the everyday dharma, the common dharma. Society may have different classes, but if the elites behave properly and with humility and a sense of social duty, then society is at harmony. The Brahmanas we see on film present a living memory of such great yet humble men.

In a snub to faux animal welfare activists (who think eating fish is inhumane, but are miraculously pro-beef), a version of Jallikattu is presented as a martial pass time. What’s more we even see an internal rebuttal regarding animal sacrifice. A Right hand Tantra riposte of the Left hand is given, demonstrating that Dharma offers alternatives internally to such practices in the name of Kulacara.

We see shakti in action, with numerous strong roles played by numerous strong women. Rather than being mere chattel, our women, our queens, commanded respect, and Shakti balanced her counterpart. We see glimpses of love and even a version of Gandharva Vivaha, where lovers came together through choice. Rather than merely loving and leaving, it was union of souls. That it was indeed marriage was emblematic when the obligation of the girl also become the obligation of the boy. As such, more than anything else, it was duty, and in particular, Kshatriya duty, that truly made its mark on screen.

The Kshatriya Ideal

Magadheera was certainly a cinematic benchmark, but Baahubali is a cultural phenomenon.  The title role is not a common soldier, but a Kshatriya incarnate. As ‘The One with Strong Arms‘ he fights not only with his weapons and fists, but also with his wits. Indeed, we see that the true Kshatriya, the true King, is the one who protects his people and has their interests at heart. What’s more, this embodiment of Kshatriyata was not merely limited to men. We see a true Kshatrani in action, in conjunction with many strong and even warrior women. Ramya Krishnan alone deserves applause for her compelling and moving performance. In many ways it is she who presents the fulcrum of the film. Not only checking ambition within herself and her own family, she asserts that the true Kshatriya is not a usurper, but executes his duty to the ruling house loyally. Indeed, she provides a firm feminine rebuke to pig-headed male ambition.

The great Kshatriya vamsas of old not only had great power but expectations of great responsibility. The Kshatriya ideal of balancing education, training, statecraft, wealth, and power is the need of the hour. Rote-memorization and blind application of and training in the sastras will not win the Kurukshetra. It is for this reason that adhyatmik and laukik knowledge were separated. Adhyatmik vidya is verily the soul of our tradition. But due to the high minded principles it inspires, it requires protection from evil via laukika vidya.

Therefore, Kshatriyas were the natural leaders of society. They had an understanding of and respect for the adhyatmik principles, but the pragmatism to recognize the era of falsehood that we live in, and the improvisation it requires. Hence, the true Kshatriya is not a hot-blooded, hot-head who loses his temper in blind anger, but is a strong willed defender of truth, by whatever means necessary. Varnashrama dharma certainly has degenerated in the past millennium into arrogant and brainless casteism from all ranks, and surely has its issues, but when properly conceived, it is one of balance. A society with an over-sized head, cannot be supported by the rest of its body. The true brahmanas of yore understood that as the teachers and philosophers of society, material living was not for them, and neither sought power nor wealth nor demanded sycophancy or undue influence. The true brahmana after all, is without ego. They also understood the limits of the brahmana varna, and as Parashurama corrected the imbalance of Kshatriyas crossing their limits, so too did Bhagavan Rama correct it with Ravana, and ironically, Parashurama himself.

spe-may112-02
Rama punishes Parashurama for ahankar from merit

The traditional partnership of Kshatriyas and Brahmanas is today mired in predation or pretentiousness. Those who aspire to those ideals must remember that Maharishi Veda Vyasa’s own son, the brahmana Suka deva, completed his education under the Rajarishi Janaka. Thus, while Kshatriyas were the natural political leaders and brahmanas the natural spiritual leaders, both required elements of the other to properly conduct their duties.

Competence is not mere aptitude or ability. After all, potential energy exists even in still water. Competence is being good at what you do. Ability too has varying degrees, but competence means you have sufficient ability for the job—not merely on the basis of natural talent, or studies, or even training, but due to habit of improvisation and adaptation confirmed through practical experience.

The sastras afford us with guidance, but it is the job of the general, the job of the Raja to not only learn and understand knowledge, but apply and improvise it. This is not done in the gurukul or ashram, but on the battle map or field of battle. After all, the tactics used by Chhatrapati Shivaji were evolved by Maharana Pratap—who had no Samarth Ramdas.

Ranjit, Shivaji aur Pratap

Therefore, leadership in society requires balance. Of the spiritual with the practical, of the traditional with the necessary, of the brahmana with the kshatriya. That this movie was able to present the kshatriya spirit, the aristocratic ethos, without ridiculing Adarsh liberal’s favourite punching bag—Brahmins—is only fuel for the fire of indigestion they’ve been suffering since July 10th. That is what Baahubali presented—and oh so very artistically at that. Whether it was the One with Thousand Arms or the One with Strong Arms, Mahishmati was the Capital of Kings.

Artistic Highlights

From its waterfalls to its mountains to its maps, this film is pure artistic splendour. The cinematography is truly outstanding and world-beating, and all elements of cinema, from the visual and auditory to the dramatic and literary are in sound balance. A complete movie, it serves as a grand canvas for not only fantasy, but indeed, on-screen poetry.

One of the more interesting aspects wasn’t the research into our Puranas or even the dress and architecture of the ancients, but the subtle inclusion of our classical literature’s approach to drama. Though perhaps not noticeable to our non-Andhra friends, the dialogue features different forms of Telugu, based on orders of society—a practice commonly used by the ancients. Thus, we see literary forms of the language ( granthikam ), along with dialectal ( mandalikam ) and colloquial ( janapadam ).

We are also given a vision of fashion and femininity that is nevertheless strong and full of Shakti. Traditional designs and forms are presented in a manner that is sensuous but not titillating.

Sorry, no Salwar Kameez here

Even rati bhava is treated with delicacy in a restrained manner. The artificial is blended with the natural, rather than challenging it. It is not the conquest of nature by man, but the harmony of man and woman with nature.

In short, this movie is a marriage of tradition and tastefulness, form and function, masculine and feminine, elite and common, ancient and modern, art and technology.

Inflection point for the Industry?

Long time readers may recall our early pieces on the Telugu film industry (tollywood no longer) bemoaning the state of the sector. Ironically, one of them actually touched on film and kshatriyata. Rather than being merely seen as an object for derision, it has an opportunity again to rise to its early heights in the 50s and 60s. From kitsch, are we truly seeing a return to art? One hopes that the smashing success of the film will ensure at least a few movies that at least aspire to such a level, even if they do not scale such Himalayan heights. The upcoming release of Rudhramadevi affords an opportunity. Indeed, Baahubali served as an exquisite launch vehicle for Anushka Shetty to a national audience. Whether Gunasekhar is ultimately able to balance CGI with cinematic depth and action with taste, remains to be seen. We remain hopeful.

A Riposte to the “Idea of India” & The Breakthrough of Bharat

This movie was nothing short of a riposte to the ineluctable “Idea of India”—hence its resonance with all classes. This colossus of a success has shown that cheap laughs, titillation and tawdriness, and the apotheosis of all things non-native, no longer need be the way to box office success, or more importantly, cinema and culture.

Above all, was the sense of belonging to a common society that truly resonated. This wasn’t just a Telugu movie about Telangana or Andhra Pradesh, but an Indian movie about India. The India that once was. What’s more, rather than attempting to pass for Persians or Syrians, the lead actor looked like he might actually be one of them—Indians. Full credit to Prabhas for the physique he developed to give a vision of a royal hero that actually looked like the people—a reality underscored by his own real life pedigree. Rana brought the glamour, but the heart and soul of kingship was played by the first lead.

Indeed, our brothers and sisters in the North have long been deprived of cultural expression of native high culture courtesy Bollywood. They have been taught and even expected to see themselves as part of that spectrum rather than the subcontinent’s as a whole. This movie changed all that. Perhaps nothing emphasized that more when Katappa’s native Indic khadga smashed the prized Persian sword. This scene was fitting not only in an artistic rejoinder to the Idea of India brigade, but in an historical and technological one as well. The famed wootz steel (ukku) ingots of India were what made the finest blades of the era. Indeed, the historical Andhra desa was distinguished for its khandas, and made the Kakatiya kingdom all the more splendrous.

Make no mistake, this was an original movie. Ostensibly, the fairy tale jibes will lead to the obvious Lord of the Rings, Tolkien comparisons. After all, suited simulacra can never see anything beyond the western. But what these indoctrinated ingénues forget was that Tolkien himself drew on Norse and biblical mythology to create one for the English. S.S. Rajamouli had no such need. He was able to draw on the incredible fountain of Classical Indic Literature, with all its epics, sophistication, beauty, and nava rasas, and use his talent, vision, and entrepreneurial courage, to bring them to life and make them relevant to the times. So let the pop-psychologists, Freudian hacks, Lutyens insiders, foreign sympathisers, and serial slanderers run their ignorant mouths…We, the native public, the real public, know the real reason behind The Civilizational Resonance of Baahubali.

Predictably ignorant of the native Literary canon, serial rudaali, PK pablum peddler, and apochryphal activist Aamir Khan is said to have remarked after watching Inceptionwe [Bollywood] can’t even think at that level [Hollywood]”. Perhaps Bollywood can’t think at that level, PK, but Bahubaali has shown that Bharatiyas—real Bharatiyas—certainly can.

 Jai Mahishmati!

References:

  1. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Visakhapatnam/telugu-scholars-see-need-for-comprehensive-dictionary/article7121325.ece

Classical Indic Literature V: Romantic Sanskrit Poetry 2

RomanticSanskritPoetry2

In honour of Madan Utsav, Bharat’s true Festival of Romance, we bring you the second installment in our special set of articles from our Continuing Series on Classical Indic Literature.

Today we present to you our long planned Romantic Sanskrit Poetry 2.

This post features the famous Kavya of Mahakavi Kalidasa called Meghaduta.

Those of you following ICP would recall our inaugural Post on Romantic Sanskrit Poetry featuring Abhijnaanasaakuntalam. While the ‘Recognition of Sakuntala’ was a drama featuring beautiful poetry, Meghaduta is a lovely, lyrical poem that is pure romantic reverie. Perhaps no padya captures the longing of a husband for his wife like the ‘Cloud Messenger’. Indeed, if there were ever any question of Kalidasa’s poetic greatness, Meghaduta put it all to rest.

Author
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Mahakavi Kalidasa

What is there to be said about Kalidasa that has not already been said? Quite a bit actually.

Kalidasa is a courtly poet, but his knowledge of the human heart and his understanding of the complex play of human motivation, are profound. A keen observer of nature in all its varied aspects—he sees with a painter’s eye and speaks with a poet’s tongue—he is at the same time a learned writer who wears his enormous learning lightly and with grace. [2]

Clearly there is a lesson in this legendary poet’s own approach. As alankara-sastra expert Acharya Dandin frequently decried, there is a proclivity toward pedantry, particularly in those subscribing to the school of Gauda. Mere show of learning is no real accomplishment. It is in the application of learning, to craft useful things which improve human life or via lucidly lyrical literature that lights up the soul. Along with learning, there is grace.

Kavi kula guru Kalidasa may have delighted us with his delightful dramas and romantic rupakas to remember. Abhijnanasaakuntalam, Vikramorvaseeyam, and Malavikaagnimitram may entertain us with their splendid stories. But if there is a piece that showcases the true genius of Ujjain’s most ardent devotee, it the one dedicated to a cumulus amicus. Meghaduta is that kavita that not only captures our heart but captivates our imagination.

“Kalidasa’s accomplishment is distinguished not only by the excellence of the individual works, but by the many-sided talent which the whole achievement displays. He is a dramatist, a writer of epic and a lyrical poet of extraordinary scope. In his hands the language attained a remarkable flexibility, becoming an instrument capable of sounding many moods and nuances of feeling; a language limpid and flowing, musical, uncluttered by the verbal virtuosities indulged in by many writers who followed him; yet, remaining a language loaded in every rift with the rich ores of the literary and mythical allusiveness of his cultural heritage. By welding different elements to create new genres, his importance as an innovator in the history of Sanskrit literature is clearly established.” [2,1]

The biography of that best of Kavis, Kalidasa, is a tale in and of itself—indeed, it is worth of a book, an article, a cinema, or several. Correspondingly, the writer who intertwined legend with history and delightful fancy with moral principles, led a life of similar meeting points. By the present foreign paradigm, he is dated to the 4th century CE, but it is more likely that he belongs to the 1st Century BCE instead.

The foregoing discussion is enough to justify the truth and the vitality of the age-long tradition that the poet belongs to the days of the glorious King Vikramaditya of Ujjayini—the founder of the Samvat era (57 B.C.) [1, vi]

 

Great Plays of Kalidasa

  • 8 works of his have come to us today.
  • 3 dramas, 2 epics, 2 lyrical poems, and 1 descriptive poems. [1]

Kalidasa would set standards of excellence in poetry for millennia. He imbues with life:

“Men of great stature, power and valour, and women of uncommon beauty and grace met by the heroes of epics and romances are often asked with admiring wonder if they are beings of divine origin: yaksas, gandharvas, apsaras. Apsaras, ‘born of the Waters’—the waters of creation (see note 8), are, like yaksa-yaksees, associated with life and fertility and seen as beneficent powers” [2,29]

To better prepare for married life, it is important to not only learn how to become eligible, but also marriageable. The courtly aesthetic is important not only in kingly courts, but in the courtship of couples. It is here that our hero of poesy truly excelled. He inspired generations of not only litterateurs and litterateuses, who frequently referred to him, but women and men of the elite, princesses and princes, wives and husbands,  to great romantic deeds in the itihaas of shringaar. But why take my word for it, hear from another great poet of antiquity.

Bana author of the Kadambari exclaimed:

Who is not delighted when Kalidasa’s perfect verses spring forth in their sweetness, like honey-filled clusters of flowers?”[1]

Indeed, who is not delighted. But if you have yet to dip your tongue in the madhu-madya of Mahakavi’s poetry, then start with Meghaduta.

Composition
kalidasa-s-meghdutam-the-cloud-messenger
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Sringara (Romance) is also Part of our Culture. Perhaps no Poem says Sringara like Meghaduta. From its dazzling descriptions of the Indian Subcontinent to its pleasing poetry recounting its people to its captivating kavya capturing sentiment, it is truly the poem for the true Romantic.

Describing the separation of a semi-divine Yaksha from his wife, we learn of this heavenly being’s banishment to Earth for 1 year. With no friend or beverage in which to drown his sorrows, this servant of Kubera turns to a gracious Cloud whom he beseeches to be his messenger. Duta-kavya can be considered a genre of poetry in and of itself, dating back to the Ramayana, and Rama’s anointment of Hanuman to be his messenger to Sita. In fact, the Meghaduta itself alludes to Valmiki’s great epic with frequent mentions of its characters and place names. The nayaka (hero), like Rama, is not resentful of the originator of his banishment, and bears his exile with heroic forbearance. It is certainly inspired by the Adi-kavya, and possibly an outright homage to it. And it certainly aspires to its himalayan heights of resonant rasa.

“The chief goal of drama is to produce rasa, the aesthetic emotion, evoked by the appropriate mood built cumulatively through not only words, but also by mime and gesture, music and dance, costume and jewellery” [2,7]…and oh, does Kalidasa evoke it, not only in his dramas, but in this descriptive poem.

The Court Poet of Vikramaditya and the first poet among Romantic kavis not only sources scintillating Sringara rasa but stylises soka as the sthayibhava.

He uses the “stately” mandaakraanta metre in his messenger poem. With its 17-syllabled lines, it is considered the archetypal chanda for love-poetry and longing. Indeed, through its cadence, it conveys the loneliness and yearning of the yaksha. If that is the mood, then the ambience is dream-like, like the very cloud with which it is eponymous.

The Meghaduta is divided into the Purvamegha (earlier cloud, as in the cloud’s journey to Alaka puri) and Uttaramegha (latter cloud, the narrative when the journey to Alaka ends).

The Purvamegha has 63 slokas and the Uttaramegha has 52 for a total of 115.

While this article will concentrate on the Uttaramegha, which most superbly captures the vipralambha sringara (love-in-separation) of the a-namika yaksha and yakshi as well as the exhilaration of Alakaa-puri,  outstanding descriptions of the Indian Subcontinent’s landscape is given in the poem’s earlier half, the Purvamegha.

In the Poorvamegha the poet reveals the Yaksa facing a cloud, clasping a towering peak of Himaalayas, whom he thinks of making the bearer of a message to his lorn wife; for he was cursed by Kuvera his Lord, to be severed from his wife for dereliction of duty. He makes an offering of Kutaja flowers and water to the cloud.” [1, iii]

It is a sophisticated work of an veteran poet and arguably ranks with Kumarasambhavam in its maturity. Connections with the Ramayana aside, it stands out for the originality of approach and the breadth of geographic treatment. Indeed, this descriptive poem provides a veritable  tour of Bharatavarsha and connects the sacred and super-human with the everyday and historical.

In this poem, Kaalidaasa gives us a glimpse of Kailaasa, and the Himaalayan regions. His eye in a fine frenzy rolls over the ridges, cliffs, scarps, valleys, dales, glades and the gritty upland of that mountain. He delineates the story of a bereaved Yaksa in crystal-clear vignettes that are remarkable for their precision and romantic charm.” [1,iii]

Mountains, rivers, valleys & cities, all are veritably painted by his padya for our manasa. Although apsaric Alakaa is the abode of the hour, Avantika’s favourite penman is loath to lose an opportunity to dedicate his penmanship to it.

Ujjayini was the city of his heart and he is delighted to sing of her glories and the romantic loves of her maidens. [1, vi]

Kalidasa’s reference to Ujjain in Meghadutam

 “to Ujjayinee glowing in splendor like a brilliant piece of Paradise

Come down to earth with traces of merits of dwellers in Paradise returning, the fruit of their good deeds almost spent.” [2,5]

For pedantic grammar-gyaanis and assorted Panchatantra murkha-panditas, an appropriate note regarding translation courtesy Chandra Rajan:

“Kalidasa’s poetry like much of Indian art is stylized. The Stylization is not a rhetorical procedure but part of the self-awareness with which the verse shapes itself. The translation therefore, has to be faithful, has to somehow contrive to be stylized and readable; to steer clear of a literalness of rendering as well as an identification of readability with contemporaneity.” [2,xvii]

In our time of jaded ennui and de rigeur poseurs, the Mahakavi revives the romantic with this refreshing tale of a lovelorn lover. Rather than the woman pining over the man, we find the husband pining over his wife.

The [cloud’s] message must be delivered at midnight, for the Yaksa’s fair and chaste wife passes sleepless nights, leaves her bed, sits in the highest window in the palace until the long to come daybreak comes. She is in no mood to enjoy the moonlight since she is neither fully awake nor asleep. Her lips go parch-dry, her hair grows coarse from want of oil; and her sleep is disturbed by tears so that she cannot dream of reunion. Such is the pitiful sight of the disheveled pining wife of the Yaksa that even the cloud would not fail to grow tender…The cloud is requested to bring back on his return a message from his beloved wife”  [1, xii]

C.R.Devadhar muses how interesting a sequel to Meghaduta would be, and what the return message from the Yaksa’s wife would be—perhaps there is a poem there to be composed by a skilled poetess yet to write…

And here, our journey into the author and his composition ends, and the selections from his celebrated poem begin. We now step into the heavenly realm of Himalayan Alakaa.

 Alakaa is a world created by our dreams and desires where time stands still and whose ways are untrodden by the unimaginative; where ‘sensual music’ fills the nights to overflowing under the moonlight (Megh.66,68). [2,26]

Selections
§
meghaduta2
Artwork by Artist Nana Joshi

I. Tanvee syaamaa sikhari dasanaa pakva bimbaa daroshtee

Madhye kshaamaa chakita harirgipre kshargaa nimma naabhah |

Srorgee-bhaaraa-dalasa-gamanaa sthoka-nabhra sthanaabyaam

Ya tatra syaadhya vathivishaye srushtiraadhyova dhaathuh || UM.Sl.19

There resides my wife, the Creator’s prototype of a luscious woman, slender and youthful, with pointed teeth and lips red like bimba fruit, a thin waist and a glance like that of a startled deer; she has a deep navel, with a measured gait owing to the weight of the hips, and she is slightly stooping from the weight of her bosom. [1, 31]

§

 

II. Thaam jaaneethaah parimitha-kathaam jeevitam me dvitheeyam

Dooreebhoothe mayi sahachare chakravaaki-mivaikaam |

Gaadotkashtaam gurushu diva-seshveshu gacchatsu baalaam

Jaathaam manye sisira mathhithaam padhmineem vaanya-roopaam || UM.sl.20

In her recognize my very life, sparing in her speech and cut off from me like a chakravaaka [bird] from the spouse. Her heart overflows with longing as days pass heavily; I think she droops like a younger creeper in Winter’s rigour. [1, 31]

§

meghaduta1 Artwork by Artist Nana Joshi

 

III. Noonam yasyaah prabala-rudeetochoo nanetram priyaayaa

Nihsvaasaa-naama-sisiratayaa bhinna-varga- dharoshtam |

Hasta-nyastam mukha-masakalvyakti lambaala-katvaa

Dindor-dainyam tvadanu-sararga-klishta-kaante -bimbatim|| UM.sl.21

My darling’s eyes are swollen red by constant tears, the color of her lips fades by her burning sighs; her face rests upon her palms, hid by her long tresses. Indeed, she looks like the waning Moon enwrapped in the night’s folds. [1, 32]

§

MeetingInTheDream

Artwork by Artist Nana Joshi

IV. Nih-svaasenaadhara-kisalaya-klesinaa vikshipantheem

Suddha-snaanaat parushamalakam noonamaa-ganda-lambam |

Matsambhogah kathamapi bhavet-svapnajo’peethi nidraa

Maakaankshantheem nayanasa-lilot-peeda-ruddhaa-vakaasaam || UM.sl.28

Her delicate lips are scared by her fervid sighs. She spills her hair, grown rough and dry since she washes them in pure water without oil or scent. She longs for my embrace even though it be in a dream. But tears well up and destroy the relief which sleep could afford. [1, 34]

§

The message:

V. Srangenaangam-suthanu tanunaa gaada-taptena taptam

Saasrergaa-sradrutama-viratot-kanta-mutkantithena

Dheergocch-vaasam samadhi-katarocch-vaasinaa dooravartheem

Sankalpai-stair-visaati vidhinaa vairirgaa ruddha maargah || UM.sl.39

Obstructed by an angry and inexorable Fate, the distant one [your husband] seeks to unite with you, to mingle tears with tears, arms with arms, pining bodies, anxious heart to heart, sigh with sigh—such are his wishes. [1,38]

§
meghaduta4
Artwork by Artist Nana Joshi

VI. Syamaasvanga chakhita-hareergipre-ksharge drshtipaatham

Vaktrachaayaam sasini sikhinaam bahambaareshu keshaan

Utpasyaami prathanushu nadheevee-chishu bhroovilaasaan

Hanthai-kasmin kvachidhapi na te chandi syaadrsya masthi || UM.sl.41

I can detect a little of your form in supple vines

Your glances in the eyes of a startled doe, your face in the moon

Your tresses vie with peacock’s plumage

Your eyebrow’s graceful curve in the stream’s small waves [2, 38]

But do not frown…for in no object, is there full likeness, of you [1,39]

§

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DevadharKalidasameghadutaofkalidasa meghdoothindi


References:
  1. Devadhar, C.R. Works of Kalidasa: Volume II. Delhi: MLBD. 2010
  2. Rajan, Chandra. The Complete Works of Kalidasa: Volume 1 (Poets). New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. 2005
  3. Wilson, H.H. The Megha-Duta: The Cloud Messenger. London: Thurner & Co. 1867
Acknowledgement: My thanks again to the young voice actor for enacting this poetry recitation on short notice. 

Acknowledgment: The outstanding artwork by artist Nana Joshi can be found on this website. The poem was verily brought to life by these chitras.

*Minor Proofing for some translations

The Mind of Margayya

(source: tribuneindia.com)

Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami (1906-2001), the creator of Malgudi was one of India’s greatest storytellers and thinkers. Writing under the shortened name R. K. Narayan, a small sample of his works include Swami and Friends, Bachelor of Arts, Guide, and Gods, Demons, and Others. His equally illustrious brother Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Laxman (RK Laxman) brought Malgudi to life with his magical illustrations. The siblings were recipients of the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honor. The popular 1980s TV series Malgudi Days, directed by the great Kannada artist Shankar Nag was based on the works of RK Narayan, and the 1965 Hindi movie Guide, a favorite of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was based on his book. 

The Financial Expert

RK Narayan’s 1951 work ‘The Financial Expert‘ [1] is universally regarded as a classic, and has been the subject of several excellent reviews from a western literary perspective, by both Indian and western writers. The book was made into a successful Kannada movie ‘Banker Margayya’ starring actor Lokesh in 1983, which went on to win multiple awards.

(source: shareyouressays.com)

Here, we explore some of the themes in this WW2-era Malgudi story using an Indic perspective, and in doing so, are rewarded with insights that would not be obtainable using a purely western lens. In particular, we discover that the timeless lessons in Neeti and Dharma that used to be orally transmitted from generation to generation in India are embedded within the ‘Financial Expert’.

Margayya

In ‘Financial Expert’, RK Narayan brilliantly encodes in simple English the sophisticated nuance and wisdom of Indian Itihasa and Purana, even as he unravels the multiple threads of thought running through Margayya’s mind. Margayya, like many a character in itihasa, undergoes intense penance in order to acquire some special power. His aim is to please Goddess Lakshmi, so that she will bless him with wealth and financial success. The story of Margayya’s journey from 14D Vinayak Street to 10 Market Street and back is rich in the symbolism and subtle suggestion that characterizes Indian art.

Margayya was named Krishna at birth, and his professional name (pronounced ‘Marg-Ayya’) reminds us of Arjuna’s charioteer who showed the way (Marg) of Dharma in the Mahabharata. Margayya employed his financial Ganita prowess to game the system. He presented the peasants within a 100-mile radius of Malgudi a financial roadmap that enabled them to secure a endless sequence of cash loans from the Central Cooperative Land Mortgage Bank (est. 1914). The ‘Cooperative Bank’ part was an oxymoron as it neither co-operated with its poor shareholders, nor performed its banking duties with a sense of seva. Margayya, aged 42, made a living by aggressively filling this gap from his service location under a banyan tree right opposite the co-op, much to their irritation. Imagine a smarter Alan Greenspan in a topi, torn shirt, and brown dhoti.

Margayya wanted to progress beyond this tension-ridden low-end job. A tipping point is reached when the stained-dhoti clad financial jugaad master is humiliated by the rich, boorish bank secretary dressed in European attire, top to bottom. We can see in Margayya’s subsequent reactions, the self-loathing, and frustration, sense of inferiority, and confusion that infested many Indians in the 20th century. A transition of people who were progressively less grounded in the forest civilization [2] traditions of Dharma and harmony that India embraced during its prosperous history; a mindset increasingly attracted to a desert civilization’s zero-sum modes of survival and self-preservation that appeared more pragmatic in a once-flourishing land, but now looted and scorched by the British Raj, abounding only in scarcity.

Margayya’s Rise

Margayya’s natural entrepreneurial drive was in sync with the Vidura Neeti that promoted the virtue of self-employment. His mind constantly tinkered with ideas for startups. He wanted to secure the financial future of his wife Meenakshi, and son, Balu. When Margayya witnessed impoverished townspeople using an unclaimed corpse to extract small-change from passersby for a funeral (and booze), and when he observes people risking life and limb to earn a few paise, he is struck by the power of money. “People did anything for money. Money was men’s greatest need, like air or food…Money alone is important in this world. Everything else will come to us naturally if we have money in our purse.“.  Here, he appears to gain some intuition about Chanakya’s words (dharmasya moolam artha). Indeed, a prosperous and developed nation is best equipped to preserve and propagate Dharma and harmony, else the rule of the desert will reign.  His goal from the day he quarrels with the co-op secretary is to reach the top of the wealth pyramid and through this wealth, acquire everything else. And right there, Margayya parted ways with Vidura and Chanakya and followed his own path and rules.

Like a Yogi, but for all the wrong reasons, Margayya constantly meditated on money and through this manthana emerged all kinds of discoveries. His analysis enabled him to delineate the subtle differences between money, riches, wealth, and fortune. Wealth, in particular, contained elements of transcendence as well as Jugaad.  “Riches any hard-working fool could attain by some watchfulness, while acquiring wealth was an extraordinary specialized job. It came to persons who had on them the grace of the Goddess fully and who could use their wits“.  If Ramanujan‘s amazing ganita results were achieved through the blessings of Lakshmi as Namagiri Amman in his dreams, Margayya’s self-serving schemes too (in his mind) were due to the blessings of Lakshmi. Through the mind of this ‘financial mystic’, we get to see the infinite recursive patterns hidden within ‘interest’.

There was probably no other person in the whole country who had meditated so much on the question of interest. Margayya’s mind was full of it. Night and day he sat and brooded over it. The more he thought of it the more it seemed to him the greatest wonder of creation. It combined in it the mystery of birth and multiplication…Every rupee, Margayya felt, contained in it seed of another rupee and that seed in it another seed and so on and on to infinity. It was something like the firmament, endless stars and within each star an endless firmament and within each one further endless … It bordered on mystic perception. It gave him the feeling of being part of  an infinite existence.

Such was Margayya’s devotion to the process of managing interest rates and accumulating wealth, that he was even able to give up his old addiction to snuff so that he could pursue his ‘yoga’ on all four cylinders which would free him from all worldly wants. A side-effect of this one-track meditation is Margayya’s general cluelessness and disdain for topics unrelated to his money, and therein lie the seeds of his downfall.

Margayya’s Fall

Margayya failed in his Nara dharma [3] and did not understand that dharma is the most important of the Purusharthas [4]. As explained here, Chanakya wrote:

Margayya is never really happy throughout the story. He obtains wealth and power, but is never able to conquer his senses, and always yields to moha, lobha, and krodha, which ultimately combine to ruin him.

Margayya has no use for the Dharma that accords to the elder brother the respected position of a second father [3], being far more interested in grabbing his share of the family property. He is quite sad that the Hindu Samaj prevented a complete takeover of the house and had to make do with a half-share (“he would willingly have seen his brother’s family perish without water by closing it to them, but public opinion prevented the exercise of his right.”).

He has no use for Saraswati and learning, which is dismissed as a derivative product that can be purchased on-demand (“‘A man with whom the Goddess of Wealth favours need not worry much. He can buy all the knowledge he requires.“. The dharmic concept of profitability, Shubh Labh, is rejected in favor of amassing wealth regardless of all consequences to others, to his family, and even to himself.

He has no qualms about misusing kama and rejecting dharma in order to hoard wealth and acquire power.  Moha blinds his eye like a Dhritharashtra to his son’s faults, and in any case, he convinces himself that a single-minded pursuit of Artha is the key that unlocked all the doors in this world for himself and his family. Every minute of his life is invested in this material quest, and it begins to acquire almost a spiritual quality. In short, Margayya’s misunderstanding of the priorities and implications of the Purusharthas leads him astray. Grihasthashrama Dharma takes a back seat. Moral relativism and a materialist clamor for rights overrides duties, replacing Hinduism’s contextual Dharma ethics [2] at every decision making fork in Margayya’s life journey.

Ultimately, Margayya begins to make money by the sackful. The more he made, the more it consumed him, until this activity completely drained him of his capacity to think straight. In a momentary lapse of reason, the coldly calculative Margayya is replaced by an angry, panic-stricken father. He loses control of his senses and strikes out against Dr. Pal, the very instrument that brought him all the wealth, and in one stroke, Dr. Pal ensures that all those earnings are taken away. Without the firm guidance of Dharma, Margayya the path finder himself loses his bearings, and returns to square one, financially bankrupt. There is some recognition in the end by Margayya of what he lost in his obsessive pursuit and why. The readers get a story filled with lessons from Dharma traditions.

The book has several memorable characters, but for brevity, we’ll focus here on Margayya’s friend, Dr. Pal.

Dr. Pal, Social Scientist

First, a brief introduction to Dr. Havelock Ellis (1859-1939). He was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Unlike India, where Kama was always recognized as one of the Purusharthas and celebrated in poetry, song, dance, painting, and sculpture, the Europeans in Dr. Ellis’ time were repressed by the strictures of Victorian morality. Ellis boldly shattered several taboos although he was indifferent to the dharmic/adharmic impact of his work. He appears to have been a proponent of Eugenics and oddly okay with the Nazi sterilization program. Freud appears to have borrowed some ideas from Ellis for his psychoanalytical theories [5].

Dr. Pal is the instrument that befriends, makes, and finally breaks Margayya (It’s unclear how he became “Dr”). He is a journalist and an author and a sociologist who is influenced by Ellis’ work. Like India’s eminent journalists, authors, and social scientists today, Pal too is a scientific expert.

He mashed together Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra and Dr. Ellis’ liberating ideas to create a scientific cocktail and distilled this wisdom into an illustrated book titled ‘Bed Life’. Margayya here represents the mentally colonized and under informed native who is overawed by ‘modern science’ label that claims to enhances and elevates an ancient Indian treatise. Margayya’s Lobha overcomes his instinctive disgust for Dr. Pal’s work and he benefits immensely from the proceeds obtained by publishing this bestseller (renamed ‘Domestic Harmony’ to avoid legal scrutiny and obscenity lawsuits).  Margayya’s growth is seeded by the ill-gotten gain obtained from this salacious ‘digestion’ of Kamasutra.

Long before Wendy Doniger invaded the sacred traditions of dharma [8], propagating Freudian pseudoscience and Hinduphobia, we have the duo of Dr. Havelock Ellis and Dr. Pal. It is remarkable how RK Narayan’s 1951 novel anticipates contemporary India where educated people flock to devour Wendy Doniger’s latest sleazy pulp fiction that tramples upon their own heritage and indigenous knowledge systems [9].

Dr. Pal is the western-influenced free-thinking rebel for whom ‘anything goes’. Later, he brings to Margayya the steady supply of clientele required to sustain the latter’s Ponzi scheme. Dr. Pal is a double-edged weapon that Margayya tries to control. Despite Margayya’s best attempts to keep Dr. Pal away from his family, his corrosive influence begins to consume Margayya’s married son, and drives him to debauchery. At this point, Margayya loses his composure and beats up Dr. Pal who hits back by completely ruining Margayya, thereby completing the karmic cycle.

Lighter Side: Margayya versus Modi

Margayya loved cash, and only cash. “‘What am I to do with property?’ he said. ‘I want only money, not brick and lime or mud,’ he reflected when he reconverted his attached property into cash. Margayya seems happy only when he is counting cash. “…. the moment he reached home, he counted the notes again, bundled them up in tidy little batches, the lovely five-rupee and ten-rupee and the most handsome piece of paper – the green hundred-rupee note” . 

British India One Hundred Rupee Note (source: rbi.org)

Per RBI records, the thousand rupee note was introduced in 1938, withdrawn prior to independence, and reintroduced in 1954 [6]. It is possible there wasn’t a significant percentage of high denomination notes (500/1000) in circulation during a time when these amounts were princely sums. Margayya’s Ponzi scheme attracted so many greedy and shady investors that nearby banks began to lose their deposits. However, no one in his office had any clue about his net worth. Margayya would’ve preferred higher denominations to hundred-rupee notes since he was running out of space for his cash stash at home (“there were currency bundles stacked up a foot high all over the floor.“).  We’ve read in the newspapers how certain Indian co-op banks operate in present times, and why they’ve become a target for tax evasion investigators.  Modi with his demonetization and push for a less-cash society could’ve badly dented both Margayya and the Malgudi co-op.

RK Narayan’s Writing

It is interesting to compare RK Narayan with Shashi Tharoor, another Indian writer whose English novels are popular. RK Narayan’s works are popular all over India for their relatively straightforward rendering and simple English, while Tharoor’s target audience appears to be the westernized elite in and outside India.

It is not surprising that Tharoor chose to focus on, and expressed contempt  for Narayan’s simple English, and was frustrated by RK Narayan’s indifference to a language that colonized Indian minds. Mocking his English as a ‘translation’ is actually a compliment, because when I read RK Narayan, it is like reading a timeless story in my mother tongue about our civilization, people, and way of life. On the other hand, the well-written prose in Tharoor’s ‘Great Indian Novel’ based on the Mahabharata gives it kerb appeal, but cannot mask its alienating lack of authenticity.

A purely intellectual view of itihasa is reductionist and guaranteed to fall short. While Tharoor has spoken eloquently about India’s heritage and its wisdom, he remains confused about the differences between religion and Dharma, and intellectual versus the adhyatmic [2]. An entire generation of mentally colonized Indian writers in the last few decades, armed with excellent English, and indoctrinated in the Euro-centric humanities remains proudly clueless about the sacred art traditions of Bharatvarsha. Even if they wrote in an Indian language, it would still sound foreign. In contrast, RK Narayan as a child imbibed India’s Itihasa and Sanskriti from his grandmother. Perhaps it is this learning that is reflected in his stories.

There is no independent existence for, and artificial demarcation between, the secular/outer world and the sacred/inner realm in the ‘Financial Expert’. This reflects India’s unified view of reality. Preserving this integral approach [10] gives RK Narayan’s simple prose its powerful universal appeal.  Injecting sophisticated western structures would actually interfere with, and diminish this impact. Just as Ananda Coomaraswamy noted in The Dance of Siva [7] that inserting western harmony in order to ‘enhance’ a sangeetam recital would be unnecessary and detrimental. Indeed, this integral perspective indicates that RK Narayan’s writings are part of a long, unbroken artistic tradition that follows the Natya Sastra (itself rooted in the four Vedas).

Bharata’s Natya Sastra [12] is the most influential ancient exposition on dramaturgy, performing arts, and aesthetics in the world [2], which was accessible to all sections of the society without geographical or linguistic restrictions. Rajiv Malhotra notes (emphasis mine) that the Natya Sastra “treats ‘natya’ as the total art form, including representation, poetry, dance, music, make-up and indeed the whole world. It is an organic and integral view encompassing the Vedic rituals, Shaivite dance and music, and the epic tales. The eight traditional rasas (love, humour, heroism, wonder, anger, sorrow, disgust, and fear) mirror the real world and come together in pursuit of the ‘purusharthas’ (human goal).” One can find all traditional rasas within the pages of the ‘Financial Expert’. We will end with RK Narayan’s own words in his 1964 book Gods, Demons and Others [11], where he shares his views regarding literature. He emphatically affirms the integrally unified perspective of Natya Sastra over a synthesizing approach (emphasis mine):

Everything is interrelated. Stories, scriptures, ethics, philosophy, grammar, astrology, astronomy, semantics, mysticism, and moral codes – each forms part and parcel for a total life and is indispensable for the attainment of a four-square understanding of existence

Literature is not a branch of study to be placed in a separate compartment, for the edification only of scholars, but a comprehensive and artistic medium of expression to benefit the literate and the illiterate alike. A true literary composition should appeal in an infinite variety of ways; any set of stanzas of the Ramayana could be set to music and sung, narrated with dialogue and action, and treated as the finest drama, studied analytically for an understanding of the subtleties of language and grammar, or distilled finely to yield esoteric truths“.

References
  1. ‘The Financial Expert’,  R. K. Narayan. (Vintage International), Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2012.
  2. ‘Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism’, Rajiv Malhotra. Harper Collins, 2011.
  3. Nara Dharma‘, N.R.I.Pathi, Indic Civilizational Portal. 2016.
  4. The Purusharthas‘, N.R.I.Pathi, Indic Civilizational Portal. 2016.
  5. Havelock Ellis Wikipedia page
  6. RBI Monetary Museum, rbi.org.in.
  7. ‘Dance of Shiva: Essays by Ananda Coomaraswamy’,  Dover Publications. 1985.
  8. Invading The Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America’, Editors: Krishnan Ramaswamy, Antonio de Nicolas and Aditi Banerjee, Rupa & Co., Delhi. 2007.
  9. Hitchhiker’s Guide to ‘Invading the Sacred’, 2014.
  10. How Sumitranandan Pant Rediscovered Dharma‘, 2013.
  11. ‘Gods, Demons, and Others’,  R. K. Narayan. University Of Chicago Press. 1993.
  12. Classical Indic Literature III: Dramatics‘, N.R.I.Pathi, Indic Civilizational Portal. 2016.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to n.r.i.pathi for the valuable feedback.

Sringara (Romance) is also Part of Our Culture

sringararasa

After our preceding article on Romantic Sanskrit Poetry, it is only natural for people to ask whether our illustrious culture should be romantic, let alone, romanticised. Indeed, the current dispensation in the natural discourse seems to believe that everything but the legitimately native and authentically Indic, can be associated with such a feeling.

While we previously established not only the contours for Classical Indic Literature and provided redolently romantic examples of its high culture poetry, it is also important to understand the place of Romance in our culture. If there is opposition from libertine liberals to anything Sanskritic on the one end, there is opposition from Krypto-conservatives and their dour dreams of dreary duty only, on the other. But a marriage and a relationship between a man and woman is more than just about duty.

Dharma provides the basis to govern and preserve a relationship, and even makes a marriage meaningful, but it is the sentiment of Sringara that nourishes it. Even our greatest Kings, Warriors, and Avataras knew that Sringara (Romance) is also Part of our Culture.

Introduction

Shringaar

Sringara, or as it is said stylishly in Shuddh Hindi, “Shringaar“, is of central importance not only in Indic Civilization, but in Dharmic culture as well. After all, the society that celebrates Siva-Sakti, and the equal halves of one soul that make a marriage of man and woman, can never be far from the Sringaaric.

Sita-Rama

Sri Rama‘s incarnation as Maryada Purushottam was the Perfect man doing Perfect duty, to the point of self-denial and self-abnegation. In our callous and foolish era, libertines disrespectfully refer to him as “misogynist”, despite his proper behaviour and even charming gentility around women. But selfish creatures cannot be expected to understand the self-sacrificing. Perfect Dharma demands that a King’s duty places his subjects before his own family, even his own wife. But that degree of perfection was only possible in an era of perfection, or near perfection (the Treta Yuga). In the Kali Yuga, even great and self-sacrificing men should not be expected to give up their faithful and loving wives today due to idle gossip, because subjects themselves have become corrupt and immoral.

Sita could expect the protection of a Maharishi like Valmiki—but where are such venerable elders today? As such, it is important to understand that, beyond the Dharma of Ram, beyond the Sacrifice of Ram, was the Romantic Nature of Ram. In an era when Kings commonly took many wives, Rama restricted himself to only one…why?

Chahe rajsinghasan par ho ya kusha ke asan par, har sthan par, Ram Sita ke bina adhora rahega.

Whether on the Throne of Kings or the Seat of Ascetics, in whatsoever place, Ram without Sita, is incomplete

Dharma does not mean denying our emotions and feelings. Dharma means relying on duty to channel and refine our feelings, so that we take the course of action that benefits the most people, rather than just the few, or ourselves.

A handsome, narashardula (tiger among men), peerless warrior, and great Emperor, lived the rest of his life in loneliness, pining over Sita, the only woman he ever loved, and ever married. He even commissioned the fashioning of a gold statue of her in remembrance.

goldsita

As such, while Veera-rasa predominates throughout the Ramayana, there is undoubtedly a strong element of Sringara-rasa. The Romantic Love Sita and Rama shared for each other transcended not only their time, but inspires for all time. In an era when people fall in and out of relationships, or due to android applications—don’t even need them, how insolent to cast aspersion on such transcendental lovers? If newly wedded couples today are blessed with the benediction that they be like Sita & Rama, it is not merely so that they do their duty for society together (although that too is important). Rather, it is so that they too may have such a love.

Fraternity boys may not have time for such a conception of women. Red pill retrograde reading may be the present fraternal fashion. But to be properly prepared for marriage, a more sophisticated understanding of the opposite gender is required. To deny women love, is to deny women life. Abuse is certainly criminal, but neglect is truly sinful. Different women may have different natures, and not all women may be hopeless romantics (some may in fact exploit that sentiment, courtesy 498A, etc), but to not understand their general need for romantic love, and to perennially obsess over the anatomical and chemical, without contemplating the emotional, is foolishness. Lust is fleeting, and Duty is lasting, but it is Romantic Love that inspires and renews.

Ironically, the many pretenders to “player-hood” and catatonic khiladis who tom-cat about, fail to recognise precisely why the much-married Sri Krishna was so successful with women, even in his youth. Lust and the carnal are ephemeral; romantic love, when sought with skill is transcendental. Six-pack abs and well-heeled fabs may get attention, but it is charm that captivates it, and character that keeps it.

Confident attitude may be important, but charming disposition and gentlemanly conduct are crucial. Brutish behaviour may get attention, but it is not always good attention. The brazen braggart and boorish bouffon, are mere infants in the eyes of women, who prefer men to mere boys. Krishna was an invincible warrior, a cunning strategist, and a clever king among men, but he was also a cultivated gentleman, a charming conversationalist, an intoxicating instrumentalist, and above all, a cultured romanticist.  Funny how would-be “hypermasculine”, self-declared “defenders of Dharma” forget that today. That is why it is important to study Nara Dharma properly, rather than merely concoct uni-dimensional understandings of Dharma and Nara and Naari.

Lord Krishna was the complete man, that is why women craved him.

The true defender of Dharma, is thus, neither brutish nor churlish, nor is he a braggart nor a bouffon. Rather than stomp about in aggressive assertion of his alleged greatness and “proficiency in ritual”, he exudes his values through his conduct, character, and conversation. The Redpill movement, personified by such storied lotharios as this lout, may have plenty of wrong ideas, but they are right about one thing: how you project yourself is more important than what you say.

How ironic that the most misogynistically medieval of forces, and the most oppressive of ideologies, have come to occupy the romantic space in the Indic mindspace today, due to bollywood. But while anti-national producers are to blame, the public at large bears its share of responsibility. After all, what measures has it taken to rollback this romantic monopoly marketing attempt? What of the volcanic growth of revolting “item dances”. Why must we look elsewhere, when Bharatiya Sanskriti perfected Romance?

radhakrishnaflute

A culture that knows not the import of courtship is a culture that has collapsed. When Romance becomes a mere veneer for Lust, when it too becomes a commodity for one day of candy sales, then lovers become nominal, replaceable, and interchangeable. Sringara is not mere Rati bhava (erotic feeling). Kama deva and Rati are indeed wedded together, but it is the combination of both that gives us the full spectrum of romantic love.  It is why grihasthashrama is Dharma in fullness, not merely because of rati-bhava, but because of Sringara.

Prema comes in many forms: Vatsalyam, Bhakti, Mitrataall are important. But as great as these all are in their own ways, Sringara is the most ecstatic. It is not for nothing that the author of the Natya Sastra, the great Sage…

…Bharat consecrated ‘Shringara’- love, as the apex of all ‘Rasas’, as if he was pre-determining the course of Indian arts – painting and sculpture, which later discovered their relevance and prime thrust mainly in love. If anything, Bharat said, was ‘sacred, pure, placid and worthy for eye’, it would be some aspect of ‘Shringara’. [5]

Arranged marriage has been the traditional model in our society, but that has never denied the importance of either romance or consent. Rukmini’s letter to Krishna asking him to rescue her, is a prime example of this. This is the society of the Svayamvara, where women cannot be seen as mere pawns for political alliances courtesy of the marital. They have their own adhikara too. Yes, they must choose wisely (something many aren’t doing of late), and Arranged Marriage with Consent, offers one such avenue, which is certainly less risky than commercialised industrialised “live-in” arrangements, which maybe start  “in love”, but usually end up in “the clinic”. As such, there must be a balancing of interests:

1) Preserving the societal fabric for the next generation, 2) Providing a healthy environment for the nurturing of children, and yes, 3) Romantic compatibility.

The rights of women cannot be trampled upon in the matter of marriage. True, difficult times reduce freedoms for both men and women. But there is a difference between filtering eligible suitors from which to choose, and taking away choice completely. Rukmini was herself put in such a desperate position. This is where this daughter of Vidarbha demonstrated her strength as a woman and wrote a letter to Krishna declaring her love for him.

But Rukmini chose wisely, not merely based on fleeting caprice, but on character (and yes, charm). She exercised her rights responsibly. It is important to consider character compatibility along with eligibility and mass-marketed marriageability. Match-making must not be a simple meat-market or political calculation that makes pawns of progeny. It is also a sacred union of souls and a sentimental bond. The Lord himself answered her call, and respected her choice.

Why wax nostalgic over DDLJ, when our Ancient Civilization already produced the real deal?

Main Yoddha bhi hoon!

For a long time, poets and commentators  have used the wrong term, haranam to refer to the Rescue of Rukmini, when it is Rakshanam. The correct word is rakshanam or nistaaranam, because as Krishna himself says, he did not kidnap her, Rukmini called him. He responded to her letter asking him to rescue her and take her away from Vidarbha.

Lord Krishna’s example, in Rukmini Rakshana, was emulated by none other than that most Ideal of Rajputs: Maharana Pratap. Mewar’s greatest son chivalrously rescued a Rajput Princess who wrote a pleading letter to him. She was despicably being forced to marry a mughal.  He heroically liberated her from her foolish relatives, and taking her back to his kingdom, he then married her, with all religious rites. Thus we see not only the intersection of Legend with History, but Duty with Romance. Dharma and Sringara are not polar opposites or antipodes, but are complements. Sringara gives Dharma sentiment, and Dharma gives Sringara meaning.

maharanapratap

“Romance is the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze” – Elinor Glyn

All this is naturally causing indigestion to our krypto-conservatives on the dolt-right, so let me properly contextualise this for their edification:

Compatibility is not based on fleeting fancy or temporary lusts of the moment. Romance is not a mere veneer or hallmark style commodisation of sentiment. Sringara is meant to ennoble us beyond the everyday erotic. Where others see mere biology or TFR, Sringara in its full sense, exhorts good character and great conduct. Rukmini, Sita, and Savitri all sought out Sringara, but they pursued it the right way, looking for the right match based on long-term interests, societal good, and yes, noble romantic sentiment.

Savitri’s own choice showed her superiority over the women of today (and the less said about the men of today the better…but I digress). This Princess of Madra chose a man down on his luck but with good character to marry. She then became the veritable Lakshmi of the House by not only restoring him to his family’s ancestral kingdom, but restoring him to life. Sita herself forever abided by duty, but not only did she resist the lustful seduction attempts of Ravana in the face of imprisonment, inducements, and threats over the course of a year of torment, but she also sought out her Romance with Rama the right way.

Even the tale of Usha, and the grandson of Krishna named Aniruddha (a chip off-a chip off-the old block), is a romantic one. Usha sees the handsome Aniruddha in her dream, has her friend draw pictures of the illustrious princes of her time, and falls in love with this Prince of Dvaraka after hearing of his good qualities.

aniruddha

 Usha-Aniruddha

 Thus, the surrender of Sringara is the single biggest strategic blunder by our Samskruthi Senapatis. Even more vile, has been the venal conflation of it by these copycats with mere “sensuality” and prioritisation of the ever compounding, compound-hungry, self-serving pedantry to pervade it. Before teaching others to certify them in their little social media certificate programs, it’s important to actually learn our culture & history correctly.

flute-radha-krishna

Sringara, therefore, is a critical aspect not only to revival of culture and civilization, but revival of civilized life and the beauty of life itself.

The Kashmiri commentator Anandavardhana wrote  in his Dhvanyaloka : “In the shoreless world of poetry, the poet is the unique creator. Everything becomes transformed into the way he envisions it. If the poet is emotionally moved (lit. ‘in love’) in his poems, then the whole world is infused with rasa. But if he be without an interest in the senses (vitaraga), then everything will become dry (nirasa). (Dhvanyaloka, III. 43). [2,156]

Radha-Krishna_chess

The game of life must not only be played with discipline, and skill, but also with style, and in the right places, occasional sentiment.

Those identifying with the Dharmic view in India typically fall into two camps with respect to this topic. On the one hand we have those looking to create a drab and charmless society, where culture is only about mechanical karma, and Prema is only valid for Bhagavan (God). On the other we have the hippie free spirits or libertine liberals who, despite their undoubted patriotism, are tribalists (i.e. modern global types who nevertheless cheer for their home team) who seek to map their “liberal”/”feminist”/”new age Male” views on to Hindu Dharma, and frequently see sex detached from love.

Despite their diametrically opposing views, both of them fail to understand the importance of Sringara to our tradition. To the paleo-conservatives, romantic love is seen as a valentine’s day derived western import and an impediment to their dream society of boring severity. To others, romance is seen only through western rom-coms or bollywood buffoonery, where “love” is a commodity, and thus, not truly romantic, nor specifically, “True Love”.  In the wake of all this, we chart the middle path.

Whether it’s Sita-Rama, Savitri-Satyavan, Indumati-Aja, Malati-Madhava or even the nameless Yakshi & Yaksha of Meghaduta, Romance has always been an inseparable part of our Indic Culture, Tradition, and Civilization.

It has, in fact, been a part of it from the very beginning. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad tells us in the Fourth Brahmana, of how the Supreme Being became lonely and wished for a second. Dividing into 2, what once had no gender, re-emerged as two lovers: a man and woman in eternal embrace. That is the beginning of creation. [8, 164]

And, for all the attempts to brand Hindu culture as regressive towards women on account of Sati, how many people know of King Aja who inconsolably climbed upon his wife’s funeral pyre? He had to be dragged down, because he had a responsibility to rule. As soon as his minor son came of age, he starved himself so as to reunite with his beloved Indumati. Separating cases of societal misconduct on Sati (anyways barred by Dharmasastra in the Kali Yuga) from the nature of certain ideals is important; otherwise, it is emblematic of a desire to misconstrue and misportray. Aja, by the way, was none other than the grandfather of Rama.

Classical India was replete with such famous pairings. Even great romantic heroes such as Udayana Vatsaraja (the King of Vatsa) appeared in numerous romantic escapades that would put Don Giovanni to shame. But while the latter featured in eponymous operas,  whither the Vatsaraja in bollywood? Dramas abound in his name, with such classical works as Svapnavasavadatta and Ratnavali, and yet, no knowledge, let alone mention of this Romantic Hero. It’s why this article by sickularatti is so ignorant. Ancient  India did have such figures, but Lutyenswallahs simply refuse to acknowledge this, due to their own agendas.

Sringara Rasa is Romantic Love and Romantic Sentiment. In fact, so sophisticated was Bharatavarsha’s approach to romance, that our literature even divided it into two main categories: Vipralambha & Sambhoga.

Vipralambha Sringara—Love in Separation

This is further divided into two kinds:

Ayoga- the Non-consummation of marriage, and

Viprayoga-the Separation of the lovers deep in love (after marriage). “The former which arises from the dependent position of one or the other of the parties through distance or the intervention of adverse fate, has ten stages, ‘abhilasha, chinthaa etc.,..; the latter occurs through maana, pravaasa or some such cause.‘” [2, 3]

Sambhoga—Love in Union

Sambhoga is Love in Union. Vivaha is naturally the best form of this, and birth of a child, also part of the romance. After all, what demonstrates the love of another than wanting to join your qualities together?

Sambhoga has many elements including seeing, conversing, embracing, kissing, and consummation.  In fact, the word Sambhoga literally means “mutual enjoyment”—which characterises not only the Indic view of love but also of sex…so whose society is chauvinist now?

This topic, in fact, will merit a deeper discussion in future articles already prepared. In any event, all this is well and good for a “classical” construct. But what of modernity? What about the here and now?

“Modern Romance”

Many of you may be concerned. Parents may be bewildered at the notion of their children being distracted, and college boys fretting that their anime fantasies may now be spoiled. But look around, youth are already distracted, and are increasingly becoming depraved. Modern media, be it movies, TV, or most powerful of all, the internet, has made it possible to not only mould young minds, but to misinform and even misguide them. Is it any wonder divorce has sky-rocketed, and fidelity has plummeted? Many are having more sex than ever before, with more ‘lovers’ than ever before, but how many actually love? More importantly, how many are actually happy?

If Romance is Dead today, both genders are responsible. Young men deservedly get the lion’s share of the blame, but young women are not so innocent here either. If chivalry is dead, feminism killed it. In chasing after “pyaar, ishq, aur mohabbat” they have conveniently forgotten that Shringaar comes with responsibility. A capricious lust, or srk-inspired stalker does not automatically deserve the title of “beloved”. Merely because some schmuck is temporarily giving you attention, does not mean you give it all away.  Many people frequently fake love to advance their own political & ideological agendas.

Romance is best when it is balanced with responsibility. Charisma is a passing fad, but Character is timeless. Character & Charm best of all.

smartgirl

If men are guilty of superficiality based on looks and lust, then women are guilty of weighing only material gains and fashionability. Just because bollywood portrays pardesis as “romantic” doesn’t mean that is the case. Just because you only see a particular medieval set of monarchs doesn’t mean they embody nobility. Stop doing merely what you are told is trendy, and use your own judgment to judge what is right for you.

beautycharacter
What women (and men) should start focusing on again

Looks fade, and even Romance ebbs and flows, it is a common Dharma rooted in a common ideal of character, and a common lifestyle, with common loyalties, that binds couples. Romance is most meaningful when we admire not only looks, but also inner nobility. True, individuals can enhance their looks & appeal (marketing is in fact not all that new after all), and can put their best foot forward. They can even become accomplished like Ravana was. But it is character that is the true bond of any relationship. Superficialities are a means of catching and keeping interest.

But as with weapons of war, these Suhstras of Sringara are not to be used irresponsibly. To seduce is sinful, as it is deceit with ill-intention. It is superior to charm and to in turn, be charmed. Suhstra too requires Sastra, and wiles must be wielded as weapons are…with care. Woman too, wields many weapons, none more devastating than her eyes. But before you can get to the intermediate and advanced levels, learn the basics.

  • Learn how to wash properly
  • Learn how to dress properly
  • Learn how to behave properly
  • Learn how to charm properly

What is charm? It is the implicit appreciation of the presence of another. It is assuredness, without imposition. It is social grace and charisma. This does not always require song, and dance, or painting or a Versace wardrobe or a huge performance. It can be as simple as knowing how to have a conversation, or to interject it periodically with poetry. It’s not so much what you say…but…how you say it.

Much may be made of the scene ending here, but for those who know Dharmasastra, Gandharva vivaha was also a legitimate form of marriage. Though usually preceded by rounds around the fire or at least garlanding or giving of rings, Gandharva vivaha (gandharva style of marriage) required no rituals and results in union of mutual consent. Though it is not recommended, as men in this era duping women have shown, in the ancient times, it nevertheless resulted in commitment, as those who have seen Baahubali know both characters effectively considered themselves married after this song.

Since we’re on the topic of the Romantic, I thought I might use this as a segue to a little advice to all the would-be womanisers and wannabe Carrie Bradshaws out there.

As we’re now well into the era of “Love Marriage” I thought I might bring a healthier perspective to those of us who have dipped their toes (or dived headfirst) into the dating scene. I know there are plenty of working professionals today who continue to go the “Arranged” route and others who go the dating route—I am not judging either way, just giving helpful advice for both. This applies especially for guys PIO, NRI or even NIR —but also to gals as well. Whatever you decide to do, it’s always better to first learn from those older to you. Then make your own choice.

Courting Advice

1. Do Not take rejection personally.

I can’t stress this one enough, whether it’s an arranged Match that didn’t work out or a college girlfriend/boyfriend. It’s admittedly very hard to do (especially when we are young and obsessed with what others think (early vs late 20s)), but most people aren’t told this early enough. There are several ways to cope with this. One is the tried and tested “plenty of fish in the sea”/ “your loss”. Another, per Ovid, is to take a trip with a trusted friend to some safe place, and gain perspective. But perhaps the all time best, in my opinion, is that the other person simply isn’t “the One”. Many people may not believe in soulmates, but for those who navigate the treacherous waters of the dating world—this is the best defence when a romantic escapade doesn’t work out. Even if you don’t believe in “The One”, accept the fact that you weren’t right for each other, because no matter how much sense it makes in your head, your theory is invalid if it doesn’t work in practice.

Not constructively processing rejection is fraught with dangers. We’ve all heard the old adage “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, and the frequent and tragic cases of acid throwers in South Asia are simply horrid. While strong punishment may deter some of this, it is imperative that fathers, uncles, and elder brothers/friends need to dissuade their idiot juvenile sons/nephews/brothers from such ideas by telling them this factoid from day 1.

A real man, knows how to control himself. Same goes for you ladies.

2. Don’t Date; Court.

Unfortunately, the romantic scene has become something of an extra-curricular activity or time pass. Courting and Courtship was once a high art, which has now devolved into the hookup culture or irresponsible and frequently unprotected sex. Rather than the rare exception, the one-night stand has, for all too many people, become the rule.

This one is appropriate especially for the gals, because, well, let’s face it, the biological clock starts ticking earlier for you (you don’t have to take my word for it) . This makes #1 easier, since the approach is to find the person you should marry. In essence, girls and guys should focus on Mr/Miss Right rather than Right now.

Ladies, I hate to say it, but this one is up to you. So if you’re not going the arranged route, and decide early on to put yourself in the market for a boyfriend-en route to-husband—don’t date recreationally in an endless relationship to nowhere, or have a string of affairs to the bottom if you break up, but make him court you with long-term intentions.

There is plenty of nonsense out there, especially in this post-SATC world that makes the Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle glamorous—but check in with your single female friends/cousins in their late 30s and 40s—and ask if what the third wavers call “sex-positive” really is all that fulfilling.

And to all the wannabe khiladis, look no further than one of the all-time great fictional playboys, Sam Malone. The latter years showed just how empty his life was, no matter how many women filled his social calendar. The allure of fast times, fast women, and fast cars runs out real fast when father time comes knocking. So find a path that works for you, maybe even at your own pace, but don’t get suckered in by fashionable puffery in cosmo, playboy, MGTOW, jezebel, or whatever other intellectual cul-de-sac in which you find yourself.

3. Guys, don’t complain, Up your game

One of the reasons arranged marriage has been emphasised by elders for so-long is because expectations are never the same. Many women can expect the world and, well let’s face it, we guys are lazy.

If you think boorish behaviour and being a jackass will get you far, you need to get your head examined, or at least see a different kind of doctor.

There is a difference between self-assured confidence, and off-putting crudity. You may gain the fleeting fancy of the lowest common denominator, but if you a looking for a quality girl, of good character, that is not the way.

Learn the fine art of charm. Don’t just awkwardly sing or poorly play the guitar. Master the fine art of conversation, refine yourself. Learn Poetry.

What is charm? It is the tacit expression of pleasure in the company of another. In contrast to self-serving sharks and self-involved screechers, a charming person is neither looking to “dominate” nor lead on a person, but is self-assured, confident, & calm. Exude charm.

4. Put your Best Foot forward

There’s a difference between trying to be the best version of yourself or doing a little brand-building, and out and out pretending to be something you’re not.

It’s why Vatsyayana stresses the importance of the 64 Arts. Graduating from a good school is good, so is having a great job or “high iq”. But finding the right person to marry isn’t simply a matter of exchanging genome charts. This is where cultivating yourself (something we have stressed throughout many topics) comes in handy. If you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, merely finding “a girl who likes playing playstation” is probably not the way to go.

Also, hygiene is very important—and yes ladies—that means you too…

5. Be courteous

Guys, don’t get into this moronic trend of “negging” where you openly insult girls to catch their interest. But do be playful and politely joke around with them. The point is for both of you to have fun . If you’re not interested in the girl, don’t be mean and destroy her already fragile ego ( girl world is ruthless enough as it is—and photoshopped magazines certainly don’t help).

Learn to listen. Don’t just hear what the other person is saying, listen and digest it.

And ladies, politely let down guys you are not interested in. It’s the best way to ensure (though not necessarily guarantee) they don’t end up walking on the dark side  or enter the forbidden land of Darr. But, also do recognise that some people are unfortunately obsessive groupies or creeps or mentally ill—so do be careful, and if it becomes apparent, then avoid and take action to distance and protect yourself. I should note that, this is yet another reason why many advocate and even prefer the arranged courting/marriage path.

Your relatives and family friends can already do a decent job of filtering out most people with such issues. They can certainly do this much better than WhatsApp, Tinder, OkCupid, and whatever else you kids are on this days.

 6. Don’t lead people on

There was recently an internet meme  that asked men and women to break the cycle of players/jerks and [rhymes with witches]. It showed how debutante-ingénues and blue-eyed boys are taken in by these characters and turned into the very thing that once harmed them.

The single easiest way to break this cycle is to not lead people on. If you’re not interested, or you simply don’t see a future, break it off early—or best of all, don’t get involved in the first place. Yes, every now and then we run into a hottie who captivates us, but self-restraint is part of being an adult as well.

 7. Think long term

 I’m not saying declare your love on the first meeting itself, or ask what the other would name a first child on the first date, but don’t be a flake either.

Don’t put off the tough questions till after you’re deep into a relationship or reached a point of no return (i.e. engagement, moving in, etc). Questions about a future child’s religion, culture, language—or your future place of residence are all important.

These should be anyways factors in deciding whom you enter into a relationship with either right away—or where appropriate, after a few weeks/ months in.

In fact, one particular case merits mentioning. An NRI college girl a long time ago was known to not date at all. When asked by the boys and girls in her friends circle why,  she said she just couldn’t bear the idea of going through serial and pointless heartbreak without any commitment. To go through serious emotional pain without any certainty of some commitment seemed to dilute the potential of marriage in her mind.  She figured she’d be better off focusing on her studies, and then have her family suggest eligible suitors from which she could choose. This may not be everyone’s view, and certainly there are those who find their spouses in college, etc. Nevertheless, it is a useful anecdote to explain why even if you choose to enter into relationships, make sure they’re ones with serious long term potential.

8. Be age appropriate.

Dating in high school is generally not advisable, whatever the stories may be coming out of DPS. I’m not saying go crazy in college when the cage door is opened, but it’s a good idea to focus on your education and discipline yourself before you go off to University (it’s why our ancient texts referred to student life as “brahmacharya”). True, a bachelors’ is often itself a stepping stone to a masters’ degree or beyond, but there’s no point in distracting yourself even before you’ve secured that first step (college admission) in your career/profession.

A degree of emotional maturity too is also advisable. And the whole May-December Romance thing is a mirage. Don’t waste your time pursuing something that clearly has no chance at long term viability (just ask Demi Moore or the countless old millionaires with gold-digging wives).

9. Be careful. Looks can be Deceiving.

Sometimes, parents of a boy or girl don’t know, sometimes they try to pass them off as something else.

I hate to break it to you boys and girls, but not every woman with a pretty face is a lady and not every man with seductive sophistication is a gentleman. There are goldiggers and players/cads out there who play with your hearts to advance their own agendas and vanities. That’s why it’s important not to fall head over heels—but to use your head and evaluate and even test whether the person who has so enamoured you really is what he or she claims to be. It’s also additional reason to not get too intimate too quickly (or further reason to wait until you’re married, if you feel that’s best as our sastras do). “Everyone is doing it” is not a reason to start, especially if you’re a girl. Actions do have consequences, so choose wisely. (If you’re a girl, test the guy to see if his profession of love is genuine. Make him wait…best of all…until marriage). Just to give you girls a bit more help, there is a saying among “Modern” men today that you may not like, but that you probably need to hear, so here goes : ‘Why buy the cow, when you get the milk for free‘. It is rude, it is crude, but it is a little insight into the male mind. Draw your own conclusions.

All too many innocent girls end up not only breaking ties with their family, but engaging in a life that they would not otherwise embark on because an abusive boyfriend takes predatory advantage of their love. Remember, if he really loves you, he won’t make you degrade yourself, or do something you feel would compromise your character, or end up in some internet video (like poor Miss Hilton)…he may walk off and sulk or grumble, but will thank you (years) later and admit you were right—if he actually loves you. If he doesn’t love you, then well, he’ll drop you faster than you can say “Mujhse Shaadi Karoge”.

In fact, while the best advice is to “wait until marriage”, the second best advice is “no sexting” ). And if the black-heart reveals itself and tries to blackmail youyou are ALWAYS better off going to the police, parents, or at least your friends/cousins/siblings. If you made a mistake, don’t make a bad situation worse by doing a deal with the devil. The existence of slimeballs  is well known now, so don’t think your reputation can’t be rebuilt or even excused due to their crime.

What’s more, due to the influence of some malignant fundoos (guys and girls), not every person out there is harmless either and may shower you with attention and affection one minute, then withdraw it the next if you don’t go along with them—repeating the process with several other partners, sometimes simultaneously. So please use your best judgment when you meet someone new—and take care to keep your friends (and ideally families) in the loop as well. This is the best way to make sure you find your someone special—while staying safe.

10. Be Honest

This of course is within reason, but the general principle does hold. If you don’t want to move or you don’t want kids, say so from day 1. Don’t fudge the issue so as to make someone commit on false pretences. While those who go the arranged route aren’t as (generally) encumbered by questions of romantic pasts, this is a factor for those who date. Again, better to be honest—within reason of course.

There is of course plenty more advice I could proffer—but I can’t give away all the crown jewels of House Nripathi …I will conclude with this though: The most important thing is to try to have a good time, and remember if it isn’t meant to be, it isn’t meant to be, and if it is—it is…

Conclusion

It is symptomatic of the topsy-turvy age that we live in that concerted attempts have been made to remove the Romantic from the Indic. How ironic that the civilization which practically invented the concept of soulmates (see the symbolism of a Hindu marriage) is asked by sepoys if it knows how to love?

Yes, bollywood sickulars, Indians (real Indians) know how to love. Bharat perfected romance millennia ago. Excerpt from Dasakumaracharita, regarding the love of Princess Avantisundari for Rajavahana:

“There, in the course of conversation with regard to her lover, she, coming to know his family and name from Balachandrika, was overcome with intense love (with the fall of Cupid’s arrows), and began to grow emaciated day by day, like the crescent of the moon in the dark half of the month, from the pangs of separation.

She gave up taking food and her other daily pursuits, and in her secret chamber restlessly rolled her creeper-like (slender) frame on a bed formed of (tender) leaves and flowers wetted with sandal-juice. Her female friends, seeing the delicate princess in that state withering with the fire of love, and feeling very sad, tried to cool her body, with materials for relief from the torment, such as water prepared for her bath, mixed with sandal, usira and camphor and kept in gold vessels, garments of lotus-fibres, and fans of lotus-leaves. Even that application of cooling reeds simply [causes] fire to appear on all sides in her body like water dropped in heated oil…”[1, 50]

She said:

Subhaga kusuma sukumaaram jagadana vadhyam vilokya te roopam |

Mama maanasa mabhila shathi tvam chinttam kuru tathaa mrudulam ||

[she spoke;] ‘only the prince [Rajavahana], who surpasses even Kamadeva in masculine beauty, can successfully cure this heat of the fever of love. But he is beyond my reach; what am I to do?’ [1, 69-70]

Prince in Dasakumaracharita:

 “There is no real happiness for those who lead a single life, or for those who have no wives of corresponding virtues. How then shall I obtain an accomplished consort?” [1,158-159]

So enough. Don’t degrade yourself with Fifty Shades of Grey, and don’t be prey for those who just want a lay. Be wise, be smart, and think long-term. Forgo the False Dichotomy of Pleasure vs Family life. Responsible marriage choices and Romance are not diametrically opposed. Sringara (Romance) is also Part of Our Culture—you must only learn it correctly.

Whether it is Kamadeva or Kalidasa, Ratidevi or Radha, Indic Civilization perfected the Romantic. Sanskrit, Prakrit, Braj, Telugu all were languages of love.

The time has come again to not only dream & converse in our own languages, but to love in them as well. The masses mastered Prakrit & desa bhasha, but Sanskrit was the elite’s.

Sringara is not an obstacle to Dharma. In fact, Sringara can inspire it. The most beautiful of women, after all, inspire men to climb the most difficult of mountains.

To reconstitute a Dharmic Indic elite, its romantic aesthetic, courtly etiquette, and noblesse oblige must all be reconstituted as well and adapted to the present time.

DharmaMandir

But crooked kupamandukas and selfish gyaanis bereft of nobility cannot revive the romantic with their bumpkin aesthetic—they forever dream of the erotic and pass off sringara as merely sensual.

Sringara is more than just sensuality: it is the self-sacrifice and refined affection and cultivated commitment of the gentlemanly and ladylike alike. These couples live on not only in each others arms, or in the pages of history, but in the hearts and souls of a people.

References:
  1. Kale, M.R. Dasakumaracarita of Dandin. Delhi: MLBD. 2009
  2. Vatsyayan, Kapila. Bharata: The Natyasastra. Sahitya Akademi.2007
  3. Kale, M.R. Malatimadhava. MLBD: New Delhi. 2010
  4. https://twitter.com/BookQuotesHere/status/587518078285701120
  5. http://www.exoticindiaart.com/article/rasa/
  6. www.astroyogi.com/articles/astrologyarticles/signs-you-have-met-your-soulmate.aspx
  7. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Papers.cfm?abstract_id=2501480
  8. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanisads. London: Unwin Brothers. 1968